I asked South Shore Supervisor Pat Jursik for her thoughts on the county executive’s proposed budget, and I just received the following message. A big thank you to Supervisor Jursik for doing this — and continuing to keep her constituents informed on key issues. One note from her information: It looks like Grobschmidt Pool is not on the chopping block. For now.
The County Executives’s budget proposes a no tax levy increase budget. Since I agree that our local property taxes are too high and too many services are supported via property taxes, I always appreciate this starting point. Milwaukee County is still dealing with a 15 million dollar deficit this year and this will again be a budget that has limited ability to address many deferred issues of maintenance. Much of the deficit is caused by paying legacy (retirees) pension and health benefits, promises that were made dating back into the 1970s.
Since I sit on the Finance Committee, I will have a front seat to both the review and amendment of this proposed budget. Here are some of the issues that the Finance Committee will be facing in the 2014 budget:
Sheriff: This department experiences the greatest change. Like last year, the county executive is proposing that parks be patrolled by the local police with money awarded to local department. This will eliminate over 30 positions. Milwaukee gets the largest payment and our local cities would each see about $10,000. While I opposed this last year, I was disappointed in the actual hours our parks received from the Sheriff. Our local police departments still provide the primary response to the parks in the south shore. I will re-examine this in light of the realities of services provided. Several functions that were once under the Sheriff’s Dept. are being shifted to other departments. This includes Emergency Management, Training Academy, and House of Correction taking on some functions once administered in the Sheriff’s Dept. The House of Correction is now run by a Superintendent, Michael Haffeman. I toured the House in September and was impressed with the programs given the short turn around time provided.
Transit: The good news is no bus service reductions are proposed. I have had to fight many battles to keep bus service in South Milwaukee in past years. The main change is a $1.00 reduction in the fares for para-transit riders, disabled users. A mistake was made in preparing the budget and this actually causes the budged to be 1.5 million out of balance. The county executive is proposing use of contingency funds to make up this deficit, i.e. reduce the money he put into contingency and shift it to cover this mistake.
Parks: Even though the Parks Interim Director, John Dargle, stated in Parks Committee that Grobschkmidt Pool was to be closed, it is not shown in the proposed budget. The only closures detailed are the two indoor pools, Pulaski and Noyes. I will continue to watch this South Milwaukee amenity. There are no significant changes to our Parks Dept. except that the county executive is proposing the sale of O’Donnell Square to Northwestern Mutual. I am highly critical of placing this item in the budget. The county executive has not done his homework on this and has failed to address significant issues surrounding the users of O’Donnell. Northwestern Mutual is an outstanding corporate citizen, and this company should not be treated in this manner by the executive’s office. I want to make it clear going forward that any issues regarding this parking garage do not in any way reflect on this great company. My proposal is to completely remove the O’Donnell sale from this budget. Many stake holders must be considered in addressing lake front parking, Summerfest, Milwaukee Art Museum, War Memorial, Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, Coast Restaurant just to name a few without the regular park users and week day business users.
Behavioral Health: The county executive’s budget continues to plan the redesign of our mental health services. Significant new money is put into community services as a means of down-sizing the hospital enrollments. A new Crisis Service Coordinator is created to manage new initiatives. A Crisis Mobile Team is also new and will work directly with Police Officers on emergency commitments. A second clinic is created on the Southside to provide community care as an alternate to emergency detentions. I largely support the direction of these initiatives. This redesign will cause many job losses in the health fields and will prove to be an adjustment for many workers. This is always a difficult issue to deal with.
Capital Improvements: We will see some improvements to Layton Avenue including the intersection of Whitnall and also Pennsylvania. Kelly Center will get a new front door. There is some on going maintenance projects for parks and highways although no large projects for our district. There will be continued funding for Noise Abatement at the airport to cover some 700 affected properties,. The War Memorial will continue with major capital repairs and the Milwaukee Art Museum will embark on a new project to enhance the museum, these are the most exciting new projects. The projects were made possible by the new agreements that the board forged with these two institutions.
There are many other areas of the budget that have not been addressed in this short article but will be reviewed. The public hearing on the budget is November 4 at 4:00 p.m. at the War Memorial Center. I am always interested in hearing from constituents on these issues: 278-4231 or firstname.lastname@example.org