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City of Milwaukee’s Fiscal Condition

Making Ends Meet

September 2016

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Video Summary

Our new research finds that the City of Milwaukee’s financial outlook is much improved from the depths of the recent economic recession. The report also suggests, however, that “fundamental fiscal change” will be needed if City leaders wish to make and sustain new investments in additional police officers or community development in the wake of the recent unrest in Sherman Park.

Key Findings:

  • Intergovernmental revenue declined by nearly $10 million (3.6%) from 2011-2015, necessitating a $23 million (14%) increase in property taxes for the General Fund and a $17 million (17%) increase in charges for services to allow overall revenues to keep pace with inflation.
  • Annual employee/retiree health care expenditures dropped from $139 million in 2011 to $96 million in 2015 (31%). Those savings have been central to the City’s ability to accommodate a spike in pension obligations and to maintain service levels, but they are likely to be exhausted by 2018.
  • The Milwaukee Police Department received nearly all of the City’s $38 million (6%) increase in expenditures from 2011 to 2015. These funds were needed simply to maintain existing sworn strength levels in the face of expiring federal grants.
  • The 2017 budget should not be overly problematic given the City’s ability to take advantage of one more year of health care savings. However, by 2018, the City again may be forced to choose between addressing the financial needs of MPD and reducing expenditures in other departments.