Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Council Overrides Every Barrett Veto

Without debate Common Council overrides mayor, keeps 59 amendments to budget

By - Nov 26th, 2019 11:56 am
Milwaukee City Hall. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee City Hall. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Without public debate on the matter, the Common Council voted to override all eight of Mayor Tom Barrett‘s budget vetoes.

The move maintains all 59 of the council’s amendments to the $1.6 billion 2020 budget.

Barrett’s vetoes struck at three issues, the biggest of which was expanding the city’s debt load. “I am concerned with the additional borrowing added to the budget and have vetoed amendments that add to our debt,” said Barrett in his 14-page veto message. “Every added dollar we borrow now will tie up crucial future dollars and make future budgets more difficult.” Five of his eight vetoes attacked this issue, cutting $1.7 million in new borrowing. Barrett’s 2020 budget proposal would have reduced the city’s general obligation borrowing by $2.3 million over 2019 levels to $82.4 million.

But the council found near-unanimous support to fund projects with borrowing, including alley repair ($600,000), expanding the COP House/Community Resource Hub program ($200,000), a rapid response cleanup team ($60,000) and public garbage cans ($128,000).

Barrett told Urban Milwaukee in an interview last week that it wasn’t a matter of not wanting those programs, but a matter of simply not having the money.

City leaders are bracing for increasingly difficult budgets. The city’s annual pension contribution is expected to more than double in four years, consuming an additional $90 million annually. In 2020, the city will contribute approximately $70 million to maintain the pension as fully funded as the city charter requires.

A council proposal to replace four instead of five fewer garbage trucks and instead fund 6,215 more replacement residential garbage carts ($320,000) was also upheld. The mayor’s budget proposed to buy 14,562 carts in 2020 ($749,794) without the amendment. During the budget debate council members decried the difficulty of having to tell constituents a replacement was not available for their damaged carts.

A council proposal to move $400,000 earmarked for the mayor’s 10,000 homes initiative to demolition and deconstruction was also upheld. “Why are we removing money from the 10,000 homes initiative when it sounds like a good initiative? The problem is that they haven’t spent anything,” said Alderman Robert Bauman shortly before the council unanimously passed the amendments to enable the transfer in early November.

The override did not happen unanimously. Council members were able to render their objections to specific items before voting on the package as a whole. Council members Robert Donovan, Nik Kovac, Scott Spiker, Cavalier Johnson and Mark Borkowski all objected to specific items consistent with their votes during the council’s budget adoption votes.

Neither Barrett’s vetoes, nor the council’s overrides impacted the city’s proposed tax rate for 2020. An owner of the average Milwaukee home ($117,000 appraised value) will see their property tax bill increase $37 due to growing home values. Fees will grow by approximately $23.

In addition to cuts across every city department, the council approved a budget that will reduce the sworn strength of the Milwaukee Police Department by 60 to 1,804 officers. The reduction would be made through attrition, not layoffs, and comes as the department’s overall budget holds nearly even with its 2019 level due to raises.

Despite the position reductions, the department’s budget will not be much smaller. Raises and other rising costs will see the budget allocation fall by only $1.6 million despite the position reduction. The department’s 2020 budget allocation is $297,366,419, down slightly from $298,922,696 in 2019.

The total property tax levy will grow to $291 million under the council’s budget, with the city’s tax rate falling by one cent per $1,000 of assessed value to $10.58. The growth in the levy is due to a larger property tax base, expanded through increased assessments and new construction.

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Categories: City Hall, Politics

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