Whether it was businesses adjusting to new ways to deliver their products or residents learning how to be social while staying healthy, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic significant disrupted life in Milwaukee County.
For many, those disruptions magnified already existing problems with addiction, finances, and even interpersonal relationships between family, friends, and neighbors. Even though we’ve made progress on re-opening Milwaukee County and containing the spread of the disease, we still see the consequences of the pandemic manifest in community violence, drug overdoses, and mental health crises.
The time has come to heal our community and to re-build a better and more resilient Milwaukee. There is no magic formula; no instant fix to the crises we’re facing; but I do believe there is a path to solving. One that springs from all members of the community utilizing every means available to them, respectively. Milwaukee County continues to use the limited resources at our disposal to address public safety needs, but partnership with the state is needed to address the scope of what it takes to keep the public safe.
In 2022, Milwaukee County invested nearly $7 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to address community violence via additional trauma & crisis response resources, expanding youth mentor fellowship programs, and investing in physical improvements like removing vacant buildings in our parks to prevent crime through environmental design.
Milwaukee County faces significant financial needs to support the public safety continuum. The continuum spans from community-based prevention to law enforcement response to pretrial supervision to court processing to finally safe and successful reentry. The public safety continuum is only as strong as its weakest link, we need every aspect of the continuum adequately funded to keep our streets safe and our neighborhoods healthy. However, the growing costs for state-mandated services and staffing issues continue to negatively impact the county’s ability to effectively address these on-going challenges to public safety. Sustainable resources are critical to continue these investments and address historic deficiencies, which have been exacerbated over the past two years.
The county is subsidizing the cost of state mandated services that span the entire public safety continuum, and in recent years we’ve used federal dollars to address existing funding gaps within the continuum. In 2023, Milwaukee County will subsidize Circuit Court operations, District Attorney operations, and Pre-trial Services with local tax levy dollars totaling $37 million.
Overall, Milwaukee County budgeted $135 million in local levy to support mandated service areas, including $50.6 million for the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office, $54.7 million for the Community Reintegration Center, $18 million for youth corrections, $2 million for the medical examiner, and $9.9 million for the Office of Emergency Management.
State resources have been critical in assisting Milwaukee County’s efforts to address challenges to the public safety continuum like reducing and eliminating the backlog in our courts, which existed before the pandemic. The services provided through one-time ARPA funding will need to continue in order to support critical state operations, along with additional investments into the system to adequately address public safety concerns and reduce the cost of state mandated services on Milwaukee County’s levy.
To keep public safety a top priority, Milwaukee County needs a strong partnership with the state of Wisconsin to bring new, additional revenue to continue to fund services along the public safety continuum. We are ready to be a strong partner with our leaders in Madison to ensure the safety of residents living in all 19 municipalities within Milwaukee County.