Milwaukee County leaders sign 2021 budget with emphasis on racial equality and improving health
Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley and County Board Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson held a press conference in front of the County Courthouse on November 12 to officially sign the County’s 2021 budget.
The County Board of Supervisors voted to pass the budget on November 9 in a 14-4 vote, and set into action a strategic plan to implement a vision to achieve racial equity. The amendments were included in order to help make Milwaukee become the healthiest county in Wisconsin. The 2021 budget passed by the County Board continues investments in children, families, public safety, parks, public transportation, neighborhood services and the County’s workforce.
“This budget is the first in Milwaukee County history to be guided by a plan for achieving racial equity and improving the health of all Milwaukee County residents,” said Chairwoman Nicholson. “Supervisors adopted numerous amendments that build upon County Executive David Crowley’s foundational and historic budget by boosting efforts to achieve racial equity and serve our most vulnerable neighbors, especially those affected by the pandemic. I thank my colleagues for the extra effort they put into setting and adopting the 2021 budget, and Supervisors Jason Haas in particular, for deftly guiding the Finance Committee through this process for the first time as the Chair of that committee.”
The 2021 Adopted Budget sets the 2020 Milwaukee County property tax levy at $303,968,779 which is $724,169 less than what the County Executive proposed. This represents a .95% increase over the 2020 levy of $301,109,336. Expenditures are set at $1,180526,340. Supervisors John F. Weishan, Jr., Anthony Staskunas, Patti Logsdon, and Ryan Clancy voted “No” on the Adopted Budget.
Among other changes, the Board approved an omnibus amendment from Chairwoman Nicholson (1A020) that invests nearly $2.5 million in County parks and cultural amenities, services for youth justice system-involved youth and senior citizens, combatting homelessness, and the County’s federated library system, among other measures.
“We continue to face an unprecedented public health crisis in the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenge in front of us is to do all we can to keep residents safe, get people back to work, and rebuild what has been lost. Ensuring that Milwaukee County is able to weather and regroup from this crisis is still my first priority as Milwaukee County Executive, but it is not my only priority,” said County Executive Crowley. “The crisis has laid bare other inequities that had been stewing beneath the surface, that must now be addressed. Milwaukee County acknowledges that years of intentional, institutional and systemic racism have worked to the advantage of white residents and to the disadvantage of people of color. We also acknowledge that we have the power to make change.”
The Board also approved three amendments from Finance Committee Chair Haas: one to explore the transition of the County’s fleet of vehicles to electric rather than gasoline power; one to improve park safety with better lighting, and one to create two positions to help configure and deploy the Enterprise Platform Modernization project, which will streamline and improve the efficiency of County procurement, payroll, financial, and other services.
In addition to the adopted amendments from the Chairwoman and Supervisor Haas, the Board also adopted amendments that would further advance racial equity goals, by encouraging the Wisconsin Counties Association to adopt racial equity principles, allowing the families of youth justice system-involved youth to access programming designed to maximize opportunities for success and integration into the community, and by analyzing the possibility of establishing a “Right to Counsel” program to provide legal counsel for persons facing eviction or foreclosure.
An amendment from Supervisor Weishan would place funds for a local alternative to Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake into a contingency account pending submission of a written plan that details the scope of the project and the new location for the facility.
The Board adopted a few amendments that could potentially improve efficiency by requiring reports on annual legal settlements and insurance costs, mitigating increases in airline rates at General Mitchell International and supporting a more efficient recovery of the airport during the Coronavirus pandemic, slowing funding for a new bus route to the Amazon facility in Oak Creek, and exploring the development of a consolidated mobile app to allow the public improved access to County services.
The Board also adopted several parks-related amendments, including to prohibit mid-year fee increases in County parks, facilitate the restoration of the baseball practice field at Manitoba Park, supplement seasonal Parks staffing needs, advance an initiative to propagate hemp plant clones at the Mitchell Park Domes greenhouses, promote ethnically diverse