|by Mayor Tom Barrett
September 23, 2004
President Hines, members of the Common Council, City Attorney Grant Langley, Comptroller Wally Morics, Treasurer Wayne Whittow and citizens of Milwaukee, I present to you my proposed budget for the City of Milwaukee for 2005.
I present this budget at a time when we are ushering in a new Common Council with fresh ideas, new goals and hope for a brighter future.
Months ago, I promised the citizens of Milwaukee a budget that would include a legislative levy freeze and a reduced property tax rate. I am proud to say we have kept that promise.
My proposed 2005 levy is 203-million dollars, an increase of just 2-percent over 2004 and, in inflation adjusted dollars, that's point 4-percent less than the 2004 levy. The proposed tax rate is 9-dollars and 22-cents which is 51-cents lower than the 2004 rate.
When we began this process, we were faced with a structural imbalance of more than 30-million dollars. Not an ideal situation for a new Mayor - or for a new Council.
I applaud our City employees who are already doing more with less for working diligently with me to close the budget gap and for graciously exceeding my expectations.
My proposed budget has very few bells and whistles – it's not a holiday tree loaded with fancy ornaments.
We simply can't afford to do everything we'd like to.
In just two years, the City's State Shared revenue payment has been reduced in inflation adjusted dollars by more than 19-million dollars. In spite of those cuts, I'm introducing a budget that complies with the legislative levy freeze. We're upholding our end of the bargain. Legislators in Madison must hold their end of the deal by not cutting shared revenue.
There is no question that escalating health care costs aggravate our fiscal condition. In 2005, the City will pay 94-point-7-million dollars for health insurance, an increase of 11-point-8-percent (adjusted for carryover of funds and accounting change.) I will work with anybody at anytime to reduce those costs. As we saw in the General Accounting Office report which I requested, we pay too much for health care!
Reductions in state shared revenue and increases in health care costs are not the only reasons to hold the line on taxes. In 2003, Milwaukee's unemployment rate hit an unacceptable 11-percent and between 2001 and 2003, Milwaukee households experienced a 2-point-6-percent decline in adjusted growth income. Economic growth has been slow and too many Milwaukee families continue to struggle.
I have made the retention and attraction of jobs a top priority. Our commitment to making Milwaukee an attractive and competitive place to do business has already paid off. We just completed negotiations with Capital Returns, a logistical service company for the pharmaceutical industry. As a result of our negotiations, Capital Returns will not only stay in Milwaukee – the company will expand – moving to a location easily accessible to our workforce and adding an additional 150 family supporting jobs that include full benefits. The president of Capital Returns, Mr. Rob Ryan is here today. Please join me in thanking him for his commitment to our great City.
Since taking office I have hosted Brown Bag Lunches with citizens from around the city. I have heard concerns about taxes, sewers, streets and trash collections. The one issue that received as much attention as taxes is the issue of making our City safer – because public safety is essential for our quality of life and for our economic growth.
We already have good news to report. Violent crimes are down by almost 18-percent. The number of homicides has fallen to 61 compared with 77 last year at this time. And, the crime clearance rate has dramatically increased. I commend Chief Nan Hegerty, our police force and our citizens for the progress being made.
We will maintain critical police staffing levels. The proposed budget preserves the number of uniformed police officers and fully funds one recruitment class – bringing the number of classes to three in a 20 month period. This will help further reduce crime.
Despite the good news, there's still work to be done to improve community relations and trust between citizens, police and city government. I am committed to that. And, I know you are too.
At the start of the budget process, we faced the threat of serious cuts in fire personnel. The Fire Department's initial budget submission proposed to close three engine companies and no funding for recruitment and cadet classes that seek out under-represented groups of people. Fortunately, we've been able to avoid these draconian cuts. Our Fire Department will continue to meet or exceed national staffing standards, continue to deliver timely and quality service and no firefighters will be laid off.
Another issue that has received a lot of attention – and rightly so —is sewers.
After the heavy spring rains and unacceptable overflows, I convened an MMSD Audit Committee. I want to thank Alderman Ashanti Hamilton for agreeing to be a member of that committee and for sitting through hours of testimony – testimony that wasn't always exciting but was certainly important.
The Audit Committee draft recommendations focus on the problem of I and I – inflow and infiltration – basically rain water seeping into the system and capturing capacity in the deep tunnel.
From 1994 to 2004, the City of Milwaukee has invested more than 200-million dollars in sewer system improvements. This effort includes system evaluation, manhole rehabilitation, sewer sealing and lining and sanitary sewer improvements.
In 2005, I am proposing to spend 26-point-1 million dollars more on those efforts.
The City is contributing 4-point-5 million dollars to the Canal Street reconstruction project to separate a part of the Menomonee Valley combined sewer system. We are also working with the State and MMSD in developing a system to capture the initial flush of polluted storm water from the Marquette Interchange drainage areas.
In addition to those efforts, I am including 1-point-1 million dollars for three pilot initiatives which we hope will lead to less I and I and, ultimately, to fewer sewer overflows. I want to thank Alderman Michael Murphy for his ideas and input into the development of these initiatives, which include a downspout disconnect program, an inlet restrictor initiative and a pilot for the removal of foundation drain connections to sanitary sewers.
I would also like to take this opportunity to publicly acknowledge Council President and Housing Authority Chairman Willie Hines and the Housing Authority staff for their leadership and insight into making Milwaukee's public housing a national model for green building. The redevelopment plan for Highland Park includes a 20-thousand square foot green roof garden and several rain gardens. And, the roof drains at the Carver Park townhouses have been disconnected.
Our efforts to be innovative and cost efficient will lead to cleaner water and less overflows. Communities within the region must work together to solve the sewer problem and Milwaukee must continue to do its part.
In my five months in office, I've learned that some of the best ideas to improve services come from the citizens themselves. Most of you have probably heard complaints from citizens about putting bulky items such as mattresses, sofas and other large items next to their green garbage carts. People are frustrated because the bulky items are not getting picked up at the regular garbage pick-up time. I want to change that! We are structuring pick-up times so that these items will be picked up with your regular trash without sacrificing collection cycles during the winter time.
And, we are addressing citizen concerns about local street conditions by increasing street repaving and reconstruction funding more than 2-million dollars over last year's level.
We will also implement a new initiative called Project Clean and Green. City crews will work with citizens to clean-up their neighborhoods and businesses will provide seed money to plant flowers and trees.
Our focus on growing economic opportunity should not be concentrated on how we can divide a shrinking budget pie. We must intensify our efforts to leverage limited resources and to partner with other public and private entities.
I am hopeful that within the coming months we can finally reach an agreement on the Main Streets Program. This successful program model has already received substantial financial commitments from private entities – commitments that we should secure and leverage for neighborhood revival.
My budget also includes support for the Menomonee Valley Business Park, the Harley Museum development, Tower automotive and the continued development of the Park East and the Bronzeville Entertainment District.
The Emerging Business Enterprise Program will continue to provide services so that small, emerging businesses can compete in the public and private sectors. I look forward to working with you as we refine this important program.
As I said earlier, my proposed budget is not a holiday tree adorned with expensive ornaments.
One of the few initiatives I have included is a new mentoring program. As a father of four, I know how important it is to shape and mold the minds of children. Many children grow up in single parent homes, have difficulty in school or face serious economic hardship. I want to help these children, give them opportunities and make sure they don't fall by the wayside. That's why I am launching a mentoring program. The City will partner with Milwaukee Public Schools to provide one-on-one mentoring for students who are at-risk of dropping out. Citizens who successfully complete training and participate will be eligible for a 360-dollar property tax credit.
We continue to fund the Library's award winning Books2Go Program and the Center Street Library's Community Outreach and Technology Center. Center Street has formed several partnerships with schools and neighborhood organizations and their efforts have given residents access to technology that they otherwise would not have.
And, we will start a Summer Youth Internship Program here at City Hall. Milwaukee high school students will get a chance to see and learn how government works. This Internship Program will go a long way in preparing young people with employment and career skills they need to be successful.
We are also making it a priority to promote access to health care, reduce lead poisoning and infant mortality. We have launched a media ad campaign, increasing awareness about infant mortality. We will also talk about infant mortality at schools, health fairs and fatherhood support groups.
In addition to establishing these priorities for our City government, my budget also includes key initiatives that will provide the momentum needed to achieve more sustainable future budgets.
We will develop a plan that takes a look at the next three years in an effort to make our budget and programs fiscally sound. The plan will identify constraints and opportunities facing Milwaukee. It will establish fiscal policies, programs and action plans. I will also implement a comprehensive performance monitoring initiative that will establish a process for improving service delivery.
Cities such as Baltimore have found that performance measurement programs that are based on operational realities and strategic goals can improve the effectiveness of city programs. CitiStats saved Baltimore more than 13-million dollars in its first year of operation by helping the City manage more effectively.
Ensuring long-term economic growth will require greater government efficiencies.
For example, following the Comptroller's recent audit of the City's passenger fleet, I am including no funding for the purchase of cars and cutting funding for other passenger vehicles.
We will spearhead the formation of intra- and inter-agency teams to find more cost-effective ways to deliver City services. This can be achieved by fostering greater cooperation between City departments and other governments.
We are all part of the same team and have the same interests – serving the citizens of our City with integrity and getting the most "bang" out of our hard earned tax dollars.
As a member of Congress, I learned how to ask for the money.
In 2004, our City applied for about 400-thousand dollars in federal grant funds to help two of Milwaukee Public Schools ' Community Learning Centers that provide after-school learning programs and activities for children.
We also received an 8-million dollar grant to support Homeland Security in efforts to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks.
These are examples of how we need to be more aggressive in seeking outside dollars. Federal funds are going to be spent somewhere and I want some spent here.
Despite our challenges, we are a City with vibrant neighborhoods and tremendous potential for economic growth. Every neighborhood in Milwaukee is unique and deserves the opportunity to thrive.
Securing long-term financial stability in every neighborhood will require fresh ideas, a commitment to planning, and an end to the politics of blame and sound bites. It will require a commitment from each of us to work together on a united front. We must agree on the right mix of quality services and funding to enable Milwaukee to grow and become a successful player in the regional, national and global economy.
You, the members of the Common Council, will soon begin the budget review process. I ask for your support of the priorities I have set forth in my proposed budget.
My Administration is ready to answer specific questions and provide any additional information you may need.
I look forward to working together and ultimately signing a final budget that will move our City forward in a manner that is positive and responsive to the needs of all the people in our community.