Politics & Government
4:54 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

Abele Proposes Freezing Property Taxes and Cutting Sheriff's Budget

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele delivered his 2014 budget proposal calling for pay raises and cuts to the sheriff's department budget

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele Thursday delivered his 2014 budget to the county board. His plan totals $1.3 billion and freezes property taxes.

The county exec just skimmed the surface when outlining his plan, but mentioned it would allocate more for mental health services, cut the sheriff’s budget and close a few neighborhood pools.

Abele told a standing room only crowd and supervisors that he wants to spend $5 million transitioning people with mental health problems from the Mental Health Complex to community facilities.

“This plan provides better evidence based care that will lead to better outcomes and more dignity for people who are often ignored or forgotten,” Abele says.

The county would need to find or create places that could handle people with intense needs or a violent history. Abele’s budget also takes aim at public safety, namely, the sheriff’s department. For example, he wants to shift park patrol duty from deputies to local police agencies.

“The sheriff’s office budget is $72 million. That’s 22 percent of the entire property tax levy. The sheriff’s budget includes an increase for deputies for courtroom security and for freeway patrols,” Abele says.  

Abele’s public safety budget is about $12 million less than this year’s.

Sheriff Clarke had asked for an additional $1.3 million, to station armed deputies at the courthouse entrances. A civilian force currently screens people entering. The sheriff did not attend Thursday’s address but did send county leaders a letter. It outlines why he thinks deputies are better equipped to provide security. The budget would affect other county employees as well.

Abele wants to give them a 2 percent pay raise, while requiring them to pay more for their health insurance.

“The increase in healthcare benefits is due to the continued rise in healthcare cost and the county’s need to align our expenses to revenue for long term sustainability,” Abele says. 

Among other items in the county executive’s budget: more money to enforce child support orders, a one-dollar reduction in paratransit fares and the closing of two indoor pools.

Supervisor Willie Johnson has concerns when it comes to pool closings, particularly Noyes on the northwest side.

“There are a lot of seniors that use those pools for recreation for health purposes. So Noyes pool is going to be very problematic as it relates to some type of closing,” Johnson says.

The proposed county budget would replace the indoor pools with less-expensive splash pads and an indoor skate park.

While the budget address only glossed-over the 1,000-page document, Supervisor Deanna Alexander says she’s happy so far.

“The overview sounds like it’s a good balance of making some wise tough decisions along with expanding services for the community, making sure we have a balanced budget and that we’re not raising taxes,” Alexander says.

Supervisors have until mid November, to hash out the details.

The full county board is scheduled to vote on the 2014 budget come November 12.