Mayor Barrett submits austere and resourceful 2017 proposed budget to Milwaukee Common Council

September 30, 2016


Despite “the triple whammy
of increased pension obligations,
rising health care
costs and cuts in state aid”
Mayor Tom Barrett submitted
to the Milwaukee Common
Council a proposed
2017-18 budget of $1.53
billion which includes just a
2.7 percent increase in taxes.
According to Mayor Barrett,
the average homeowner will
experience an annual property
tax increase of $26.40 and
a municipal fee increase of
$10.86. The additional funds
will address some longstanding
infrastructure, public
health and safety needs.
Those needs include replacement
of lead used in
pipes which supply drinking
water to about half of all
Milwaukee residences and
businesses. In addition there
are a number of houses
which contain lead paint. Elevated
lead levels below the
fatal threshold in the human
body can cause learning and
behavioral disabilities, especially
in children. The proposed
2017 budget allocates
$11 million over two years
and prioritizes replacement
of pipes at 385 state licensed
day-care centers. The budget
also includes $4.3 million
in funding to increase the
17,000 houses which have
already been made lead paint
safe. The cost to replace all
70,000 houses estimated to
contain lead pipe will cost
$770 million.
The budget presentation
also included the news that
two major employers have
committed to opening major
manufacturing operations
at the Century City
Industrial Complex, located
at the old A.O. Smith Automotive
manufacturing center.
During Governor Scott
Walker’s first year in office,
he terminated a multi-million
dollar contract to build two
new train sets for the Chicago-
Milwaukee Amtrak corridor
to be built by Spanish
railroad manufacturer, Talgo.
The decision cost Wisconsin
taxpayers at least $40 million
for the unused trains the title
to which a court awarded
to Talgo, meaning the state
received virtually nothing
for its investment. Recently
Talgo won a contract to refurbish
commuter rail cars
for the City of Los Angeles
and announced it would use
its former Milwaukee manufacturing
facility to refurbish
the trains.
Century City will also have
another major new manufacturer
after the Rev Group announced
it will be assembling
prototypes as it competes for
a U.S. Postal Service contract
to build the next generation
of delivery vehicles. The
proposed budget includes a
60 percent increase in funding
a variety of programs to
help homeowners struggling
to avoid foreclosure. Milwaukee
has also benefited from
the sale of 369 renovated
tax-foreclosed homes.
Law enforcement agencies
will receive a $127 million
budget increase that is nearly
double the amount it received
in 2004; the first year
that Mayor Barrett assumed
office. Putting the $302 million
law enforcement budget
in perspective, Mayor
Barrett said the amount was
more than the entire $267
million Milwaukee property
tax assessment. The increase
calls for 165 new police officers,
almost all of whom
will replace officers who are
expected to retire. Calling
the recent surge of violence
unacceptable, Mayor Barrett
said that “courts and cops
are not the only answer.”
Healthy neighborhoods,
youth development and violence
prevention are proven
crime reduction strategies
that are less confrontational
and potentially less discriminatory.