The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors late Tuesday passed its version of the county budget for the coming fiscal year.
The $1.3-billion budget is similar in many ways to the proposed budget offered by County Executive Chris Abele, but veers from it in key ways, as well.
The overall budget was approved by a 14-4 margin, though several specific issues were approved unanimously. For example, keeping two community pools open was unanimously approved. Former County Executive Scott Walker and the current County Executive Abele wanted the pools closed. However, the community’s strong input helped sway that decision.
“Thousands of people contacted us, whether it be through emails, petitions, phone calls, or coming to hearings,” says Marina Dimitrijevic, board chairwoman. “This discussion is not just about two indoor pools. I believe it’s reflective of a larger discussion, a philosophical debate, of how we invest in our public infrastructure.”
Dimitrijevic is overall pleased with the budget, though it didn't come without its challenges. The board had to work around a $3 million accounting error, but avoided a property tax hike.
It also had to wrestle with costs for immediate needs, such as infrastructure and deferred maintenance, while balancing them with long-term structural issues, like rising benefit and health care costs for current county employees.
Dimitrijevic says Abele's budget would have amounted to a 7% decrease in take-home pay for county employees to account for increasing health care costs. But the board was able to “decrease the increase” for employees somewhat.
The board also restored much of the funding for the County Sheriff's office, which had been taken out in Abele's budget proposal.
The board also approved a measure that would transfer control of the Milwaukee County Transit System back to county hands in April, if a resolution is not reached regarding a contract with MV Transportation. Two other firms, including the current contract holder Milwaukee Transport Services, have appealed the contract decision.
Dimitrijevic says the budget addresses several county issues identified by a Public Policy Forum analysis this fall. The Forum did say that the county is becoming more fiscally sound and sustainable.
The board is scheduled to take up any vetoes County Executive Chris Abele makes at a board meeting Thursday, Nov. 21.