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Milwaukee County approves 2020 budget with priority on investments for communities in need

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele signed the 2020 county budget on November 19, which makes significant investments in public transportation, public safety and neighborhood investments in communities most in need.

The 2020 budget, which represents significant collaboration with the Board of Supervisors, was approved with no vetoes. With the 2020 budget signed, Milwaukee County officials will continue working together and with the State to find a solution to adequately fund public services, maintain facilities, provide tax relief and invest in the future through a binding referendum process.

“The tough choices we have made over the years have resulted in this balanced budget that reflects our values and allows us to be responsible fiscal stewards,” said County Executive Chris Abele. “Using a racial equity lens to shape the 2020 budget helped us prioritize transit investments, launch new health and human services initiatives and further modernize our public safety approach.”

The 2020 budget started with a $28 million gap, and was balanced using a mix of spending cuts, improved estimates and one-time spending allocations. The budget gap was improved with funding in the State of Wisconsin’s biennial budget, healthcare estimate improvements, a property tax carry forward and centralized savings from the county.

With limited ability to raise additional sources of revenue for the Milwaukee County budget, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, County Board Chairman Theodore Lipscomb, Sr., and local leaders launched Move Forward MKE in September 2019 to address local funding concerns. This initiative will allow Milwaukee County and its 19 municipalities to pursue a binding referendum for a 1 percent local option sales tax increase with property tax relief. The partnership between state legislators, the business community, municipal governments and community groups focuses on the need to fund local priorities with local dollars.

The 2020 budget drives toward the countywide vision that by achieving racial equity Milwaukee is the healthiest county in Wisconsin. By using a racial equity lens and maintaining fiscal discipline, this budget:

  • Invests in the Milwaukee County Transit System, including: maintaining Freeway Flyers and routes in communities of color, preserving all high-frequency routes and modified low-frequency routes, and keeping cash fares flat at $2.25 per ride.
  • Builds on Health and Human Services work to provide residents and communities with the assistance they need where and when they need it.
  • Addresses neglected infrastructure in communities in need, including updating the outdated playgrounds at Rose, Indigenous Peoples’, Washington and Mitchell Airport Parks.
  • The budgetary reforms and savings since 2011 have allowed Milwaukee County to address many of the fiscal issues with minimal impact on the services Milwaukee County provides. This has been done by streamlining services, making government leaner and cutting a cumulative $278 million over the past nine budgets.

With limited ability to raise additional sources of revenue for the Milwaukee County budget, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, County Board Chairman Theodore Lipscomb, Sr., and local leaders launched Move Forward MKE in September 2019 to address local funding concerns. This initiative will allow Milwaukee County and its 19 municipalities to pursue a binding referendum for a 1 percent local option sales tax increase with property tax relief. The partnership between state legislators, the business community, municipal governments and community groups focuses on the need to fund local priorities with local dollars.

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Lee Matz

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