Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Barrett Issues Two Budget Vetoes

Mayor targets funding source for lead abatement, neighborhood watch programs.

By - Nov 18th, 2020 02:02 pm
Mayor Tom Barrett at a voter registration rally at Miller Park. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Mayor Tom Barrett at a voter registration rally at Miller Park. File photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Mayor Tom Barrett issued two line-item vetoes for the $1.6 billion 2021 city budget the Common Council adopted on November 6th.

Barrett’s vetoes, if sustained, would cancel amendments that would increase funding for lead abatement by cutting affordable housing funding and provide funding for the Alert Neighbor program by cutting police overtime funding.

The mayor’s vetoes, according to a message sent to the council, were fiscally motivated and not objections to the programs themselves. His veto message provides alternatives to fund each of the efforts.

The council will consider whether to override or sustain the vetoes on November 24th. Barrett issued eight vetoes in 2019, with the council overriding each. But unlike past years, the council approved the 2021 budget on a narrow 8-7 vote.

“The 2021 city budget has been the most challenging budget we have faced,” wrote Barrett. “Circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic made the development of the budget much more difficult. The fiscal handcuffs placed on the City by the State Legislature and our coming pension obligations put us in a very difficult position. Despite all the challenges, I commend you on the 2021 budget you have adopted.”

Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic successfully pushed for the inclusion of an amendment that reallocated $500,000 towards lead paint abatement as part of a new, voluntary “Safe Homes” program. The funds came from cutting allocations to the 10,000 Homes Initiative aimed at creating or preserving affordable housing and the Strong Home Loans program that aids home repair. The funding came from the closeout of the Beerline tax incremental financing district, with state law allowing the city to harvest over $6 million from the district last year.

During the adoption process, Dimitrijevic said the Safe Homes program would support affordable housing by allowing the Milwaukee Health Department to do more remediation work.

Budget director Dennis Yaccarino said that the health department would have $9 million for the work already in 2021, when including unspent funding resulting from a pandemic-induced slowdown and a new $5 million allocation. Barrett repeated that in his veto message.

“I appreciate the council’s addition of position authority to support the health department’s work and have left that intact,” wrote Barrett.

The Alert Neighbor amendment allocates $150,000 to a program to provide financial support for block watch programs. It was introduced by Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II. The cut to police overtime would not prevent the Milwaukee Police Department from using the overtime and could result in the fund being exhausted and the council needing to come up with funding midyear.

Barrett’s veto message said approximately $600,000 exists in the City Clerk‘s office from unspent 2020 funds and could be tapped to fund the program in 2021.

During the budget deliberation process, co-sponsor Ald. Milele A. Coggs said 15 pilot neighborhood groups have already been identified. Stamper said the MPD is aware of the effort.

Funds had been previously allocated to MPD for the program, but went unspent and were returned to the tax stabilization fund because a carryover request was not made. Ald. Robert Bauman suggested MPD eliminate the position of the person responsible for keeping track of the budget allocation to pay for the program, drawing laughs from his colleagues.

The 2021 budget cuts the size of MPD by at least 120 officers, eliminates one fire engine company, creates a new street lighting fee and reduces the property tax rate as the city grapples with pandemic-induced challenges, structural budget issues and the need to provide up to an additional $100 million annually to fund the city’s pension system.

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Related Legislation: File 200001

Categories: City Hall, Politics

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