Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Barrett Issues 5 Budget Vetoes

Mayor rejects funding for a broad range of council initiatives.

By - Nov 26th, 2018 03:37 pm
Mayor Tom Barrett speaking before the Milwaukee Common Council. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Mayor Tom Barrett speaking before the Milwaukee Common Council. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Before heading home to celebrate Thanksgiving, Mayor Tom Barrett issued five budget vetoes Wednesday night.

In a message to the Common Council, Barrett said: “I have chosen to veto a small number of items, based on my concerns regarding the property tax levy and increased debt authorizations in the Council’s Adopted Budget.” The mayor also praised the council for working to maintain the funds set aside in the pension reserve and lead abatement.

The Common Council adopted a $1.53 billion budget on November 13th, adding $947,478 to the property tax levy over Barrett’s proposal and $4.7 million in borrowing. The increased funding went to a wide variety of city programs, including street repaving ($1 million in borrowing) and addressing food deserts ($200,000 from the tax levy).

One of Barrett’s vetoes comes at no surprise. The mayor vetoed funding for the creation of the Inspector General position within the City Clerk‘s office. Barrett had vetoed the creation of the position in the first place, citing concerns over governance and effectiveness. The council overruled Barrett’s initial veto with the bare minimum of 10 votes, and approved the funding with the same 10 votes during the budget amendment process.

Barrett, who had proposed adding 10 police officers to the Milwaukee Police Department in his budget, also partially vetoed a council amendment that would have instead allocated all of the funding to the Milwaukee Health Department. The amendment, which passed the council on an 8-7 vote, would have created four community outreach liasons, one health project coordinator and a $425,000 special purpose account in the health department. Barrett’s line-item veto would maintain the new positions, but allow for six officers to be added to the police department in a late 2019 recruiting class. “My proposed substitute accomplishes what the Council sought to do, additional resources for both public health and the police,” said Barrett in his veto statement. He also added that he expected the health department to have “significant” funding to carry over into 2019.

The mayor rejected a council proposal to reallocate $375,000 from a license plate recognition program to the creation of four Community Oriented Policing houses (COP Houses). The council proposal, adopted on a 12-3 vote, was aimed at improving police-community relations. The houses would be located in city-owned homes in the city’s four Promise Zones – Old North Milwaukee, the near South Side, North Division and Washington Park. In his veto message, Barrett said: “The Police Department sees promise in the ‘resource house’ model proposed by Journey House and Andre Lee Ellis. I am sure each neighborhood will have its own anchors and funding partners to make these work. Without that clear commitment of support and funding from community partners, I cannot support eliminating funds for ALPR to support COP Houses.” The mayor’s statement said the successful COP Houses in Racine and Mount Pleasant rely on large private donations.

Barrett also rejected an amendment introduced by Alderman Khalif Rainey to add $200,000 to the property tax levy to fund “healthy food establishments.” Rainey said the effort would ultimately need millions in support. Barrett’s veto message touted the city’s success in creating five new grocery stores in the last ten years, including Pete’s Fruit Market in Bronzeville. “I pledge to work with Alderman Rainey and others to grow new partnerships. We can use existing funds to implement the Food Access strategies we created together in April 2017,” said the mayor in his veto message. The American Heart Association issued a press release calling on the council to override the veto.

The mayor entirely vetoed an amendment introduced by Robert Bauman to provide an additional $1.5 million for deconstruction and demolition via borrowing. In his veto message, Barrett took issue with the city’s deconstruction ordinance, regarding both its effectiveness and legality. Bauman, in arguing for his amendment, said that regardless of the status of the deconstruction ordinance, the funds were needed. He noted that the mayor’s budget allocated $1 million, only enough to demolish 38 of the 53 properties that are currently under emergency raze orders. The alderman said that in all there are 475 city properties currently under raze orders.

The council will consider the vetoes at its November 27th meeting. Veto overrides require the support of 10 of the 15 council members.

Under the proposal adopted by the council, prior to any vetoes, the average homeowner would see an increase in city property taxes and fees of $51.88 in 2019. While the approved property tax levy from the council reduces the rate per $1,000 of assessed value from $10.75 in 2018 to $10.57 in 2019, homeowners would still see an increase due to rising assessments. Plus, fees for services are scheduled to increase by $12.58 for the average homeowner.

The city continues to face a structural budget deficit due to a long-term reduction in shared revenue from the state. The entire property tax levy, approximately $281 million, does not even cover the Milwaukee Police Department‘s $295 million budget. The city raises additional revenue from fees and state and federal aid.

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Categories: City Hall, Politics

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