Milwaukee Leaders Gear Up for 2015 Budget

Aug 18, 2014

Milwaukee City Hall
Credit Casey Eisenreich, Flickr

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Tuesday will outline the budget planning process for 2015 while also taking suggestions from residents.

Milwaukee leaders say the city is better off than a few years ago.

Over the last five years Milwaukee has made a lot of cuts, according to budget director Mark Nicolini.

“We eliminated almost 500 funded positions, made other operation reductions, and in general saved over on an annual basis saved about $40 million,” Nicolini says.

The city has also continued to issue furlough days for its employees. Nicolini says diminished state aide and state imposed caps on tax increases caused the need for such cuts. He says health care is the one area where the city has been able to institute money saving changes across the board thanks to Act 10 and legislation that followed.

“The primary benefit if you will to date has been our ability to apply changes in health care plan design such as deductibles, copayments and out of pocket maximums to all employees,” Nicolini says.

Nicolini says those changes have saved the city around $10 million a year. He says the city’s goal has been to stabilize the budget in a way that’s sustainable. He says that’s meant no major borrowing, especially for operational expenses, and continuing to service long-term obligations such as pensions.

Ald. Michael Murphy is president of the Milwaukee Common Council. He says that if he were a betting man, he’d put money on the fact the mayor would do away with furlough days now that the budget is a bit more stable. Murphy also says that for him, public safety is always a high priority along with a few other things.

“We also are looking at how additional resources the mayors going to allocate as it relates to job creation, which is a critical component also of public safety. In addition to addressing the continuing problem of foreclosures in our city,” Murphy says.

Murphy and Ald. Russell Stamper agree on their top priorities. Stamper says there’s a lot more the city could be doing when it comes to job creation.

“Number one, they can employ individuals from the community to help with the rehabbing of homes, they can provide training opportunities for any development that’s going on in the city, they can also guide more resources to youth programs like the Earn and Learn Program,” Stamper says.

Like with any budget, Stamper says he understands cuts will also be necessary. He says his goal will be to help identify programs that simply don’t work and get rid of those.

The mayor’s preliminary budget hearing will go from 6 pm to 7:30 pm at the Zeidler Municipal Building.