Our analysis of the Milwaukee County Executive’s recommended budget finds that the 2018 proposal largely averts service cuts, which is no easy task given the $30.9 million budget deficit facing the County in the coming year. The trade-off, however, is more than $19 million of new or enhanced fees, including a proposed $30 increase in the vehicle registration fee (VRF).
Key areas of analysis:
- Fee increases are the primary solution to next year’s budget gap. In addition to the VRF increase — which would generate an additional $14.6 million — the budget recommends $4.7 million in other new or enhanced fees, including new parking fees at County parks and transit fare increases. We explore possible alternatives to fee increases and actions that should be avoided.
- Retirement costs continue to drive operating budget pressures. Gross health care and dental costs will increase by 14% (from $98.8 million to $112.7 million) and the County’s pension fund contribution is budgeted to increase by 6% (from $100.8 million to $106.8 million). We explain the causes for the increases and whether they are likely to continue.
- The Sheriff’s budget still poses a challenge. Despite increased funding for overtime and additional revenue from a boost in inmate phone fees, the budget does not appear to fully meet the cost-to-continue needs of the Office of the Sheriff. We explain the details and why the Sheriff’s deficit challenge may be improving.
- Infrastructure challenges loom large for the future. Despite major investments in a new international airport terminal and much-needed bus replacements, the recommended capital budget only addresses a fraction of the County’s overwhelming infrastructure needs. We break down capital spending by function and reveal where it is lacking.