Budget Brief

Milwaukee County 2019 Executive Budget

October 2018


Our analysis of the Milwaukee County Executive’s recommended budget finds that reduced health care and pension costs ease deficit reduction efforts and create one of the most tranquil budget climates in years. However, growing capital budget challenges, dwindling reserves, and a continued structural hole in the transit budget set the stage for more difficult times ahead.

Key findings:

  • The Milwaukee County Transit System sees only minor fare increases and service reductions, but a potentially unsustainable trend of increased local tax/fee support continues and the transit system’s budget is aided by $2.2 million in federal monies and insurance savings that will not be available in 2020.
  • In making room for a handful of large projects and staying within the county’s self-imposed borrowing limitations, the capital budget is precluded from providing funding for 65 smaller projects totaling more than $35 million that were requested by departments.
  • The county’s debt service reserve, which functions as its only general reserve and which had been built to a peak of $47 million in 2016, has now diminished to $27 million and is unlikely to have the capacity for large annual withdrawals to help alleviate budget challenges in future years.

This report is the first of two Milwaukee budget briefs we will publish. Our City of Milwaukee Budget Brief will be released next week.