A New Day in Milwaukee County
When County Executive David Crowley took office in 2020, his number one priority was to put Milwaukee County on the path of financial sustainability. For the first time in decades, that goal has been achieved. Milwaukee County finds itself in a vastly improved budgetary environment than in past years.
Prior to David Crowley’s tenure as County Executive, Milwaukee County’s structural deficit was anticipated to reach $109 million by 2028. Within that same time frame, state-mandated services are also anticipated to grow, which would’ve consumed Milwaukee County’s entire local tax levy. As a result, Milwaukee County would have been forced to make over $100 million in cuts to provide the current, standard level of service – after already cutting approximately $300 million in the past decade.
This is no longer Milwaukee County’s future.
Thanks to County Executive Crowley’s leadership and advocacy, both chambers of the Wisconsin State Legislature passed the bipartisan Wisconsin Act 12 in June of 2023 to reform the state’s local revenue-sharing structure for the first time in over two decades. The legislation allowed Milwaukee County to raise additional revenues to address its unique financial challenges and legacy pension issues. Following the Governor signing Wisconsin Act 12 into law, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors voted to enable an update to the current countywide sales tax, avert a looming fiscal cliff, and preserve critical services that residents rely on each day. This historic action resulted in allowing Milwaukee County to reform its pension system, generate millions in additional sales tax revenue every year (approximately $84 million estimated in 2024), secure additional shared revenue payments for the first time in over a decade, and create incentives for local governments to pursue service collaborations that save taxpayers money.
Driven by the passage of Wisconsin Act 12 and the historic actions by County Executive Crowley and the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, Milwaukee County is projecting a surplus in the 2024 Budget – the first surplus projected in the budget in over two decades. With the surplus in mind, rather than determining what potential cuts would have been the least harmful, Milwaukee County now can deploy the most-beneficial investments for our residents.
But this is not a cure-all for the County’s financial challenges. County Executive Crowley is committed to deploying fiscally responsible, thoughtful, and innovative solutions to maintain this trajectory, work toward our shared vision, and build a brighter future for Milwaukee County.
A 72-County Strategy
Regardless of our recent successes, it’s no secret that one of the biggest issues facing local governments around the state continues to be a lack of financial resources. As costs continue to grow, local governments have limited tools to preserve core services. In particular, fiscal aid to support state and federal mandated services continues to fall short of the cost to provide those mandated services. As a result, local tax dollars are required to fill that gap, which negatively impacts our ability to invest in other critical local services such as parks, transit, senior services, and more. With budget challenges anticipated in the years ahead, it is essential Milwaukee County continues working with local governments throughout the state and the state legislature to empower local governments to address local priorities in a way that positively impacts the state.
To be successful, it is critical to engage with all 72 counties throughout the state. Specifically, County Executive Crowley intends to continue leveraging his 72-county strategy, which recognizes that no matter the differences counties may have regarding their size, location, or politics, all counties throughout the state have a universal set of needs and shared interests that can be addressed through unified action.
County Executive Crowley is working to maintain the strong coalition of shared interests with Wisconsin counties and municipalities that he has built over the years to build momentum for additional policies that positively impact local control. While Milwaukee is the economic driver of our state, County Executive Crowley understands our communities are symbiotic and rely on one another to be successful. A successful Wisconsin requires a successful Milwaukee – and County Executive Crowley will continue efforts to move Milwaukee and the state forward together.