Close the Libraries? Lease the Water Works?
Massive layoffs, extended furloughs, service cuts, significant tax and fee increases all are possibilities in the next year for the City of Milwaukee. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but with the gap in the pension fund, a decline in the assessed value of property in the city, and a likely decline in state shared revenue the fiscal picture for the City of Milwaukee doesn’t look so bright. At today’s Common Council meeting the debate around a snow and ice fee increase and the furloughing of city employees were brought about by this startling economic outlook for the City of Milwaukee. These efforts are surely just the start of the city’s efforts to create a surplus this year with the goal of propping up next year’s budget. So it’s time to seriously think about how the City of Milwaukee can find $90 million to plug the hole. It easy to say layoff the workers and “cut programs,” but the realities of city government shows specific ideas are needed, not blanket talking points.
To alleviate next year’s pain the city has started taking actions to create a surplus in this year’s budget. The two day furlough is an unfortunate but necessary start, but the city must act more aggressively and immediately. Nobody has the magic bullet solution to the problem, but I’ll offer one small potential savings. Further, I’m no accountant, and I’m not a real estate developer, but it seems to me that by closing the East Side library, on North Avenue, the city can save money this year, sell what has to be valuable land, and put this land on the tax roles. It surely is a unfortunate thing to suggest a library closing, but the East Side can afford to be without a library more than some of our less-fortunate, inner-city neighborhoods. Further, when the economy improves and the budget issues are resolved a new library would be great tenant as part of a mixed-use development, but right now it’s time to save money. Clearly, this isn’t the magic bullet but as it’s likely all sorts of across the board cuts are coming next year small ideas like this are needed. What’s yours?