Dave Reid

2009 City Budget Cuts Firefighters

By - Oct 21st, 2008 11:36 am
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Each year the City of Milwaukee goes through a public lashing as Mayor Tm Barrett attempts to create next year’s budget. This year was no different than the last few where items like increasing fees and cutting staff have been on the agenda. This upcoming budget includes an increase to the snow removal fee, and a 4.8 percent rise in property taxes. Mayor Barrett had proposed a 28 percent increase to the solid waste fee to avoid the closing of two libraries, the shutting down of two engine companies, and leaving 56 police officer jobs vacant.  The Common Council rejected this increase but even had they approved this increase, cuts to the number of firefighters on ladder crews, reduction of one engine crew, and cuts to other city services would still of been needed.

Interestingly enough there was little pressure to hold the line on property taxes while there was significant support to maintain or increase services. In fact numerous citizens came out in support of saving the libraries, expanding the summer youth program, and improving snow removal efforts. One youth explained how valuable his experience in the summer youth program was to him and that he felt more youth should be given the same opportunity he had. Additionally as they have for years, numerous firefighters showed up in an effort to stop the cuts in their department. They pointed out a laundry list of issues regarding the cutting of their staff that included, flaws in the Matrix study, that Mayor Barrett was incorrect in his recent assertion that New York City has gone to four firefighters per engine, that Washington, D.C. has actually gone back to five engine crew members, and that these cuts could jeopardized firefighter and civilian lives. Although some citizens spoke about rising property taxes, generally citizens were concerned over the loss of city services.

On a lighter note, the most interest comment of the night was one ladies’ suggestion that the City of Milwaukee should start a program to kill or trap squirrels which would save the city money because of all the property damage these squirrels cause. It is likely that the number of libraries to be closed will be less than proposed and fewer firefighters will be cut than proposed but the squirrel population is probably safe.

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