Graham Kilmer
MKE County

County Ends Year With a Surplus

Current projections show the county ending with $10 to $15 million surplus.

By - Dec 29th, 2020 05:44 pm

Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Sulfur at English Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Sulfur at English Wikipedia (GFDL) or (CC-BY-SA-3.0), via Wikimedia Commons

Milwaukee County expects to finish 2020 with a budget surplus.

The county’s Office of the Comptroller is projecting the county will end the year with anywhere from a $10 to $15 million surplus, largely due to federal CARES Act funding, and also measures taken to cut costs in county departments during the year.

Without CARES Act funding, the county is projected to end the year with a $3.1 million surplus, just from departmental savings. A number of departments reduced their expenses during the year because of administrative orders that put freezes on hirings, new contracts and overtime for county agencies. Other departments that are ending the year with deficits are seeing revenues increase towards the end of the year.

The parks department has benefited from the unseasonably warm fall and winter. CJ Pahl, financial services manager for the county, told the county board’s finance committee this month that the parks’ deficit went from $1.4 million a few months ago to less than $300,000, largely due to revenues at county golf courses.

15 county departments are finishing the year with surpluses. The courts and the Department of Health and Human Services are both finishing the year with multi-million dollar surpluses.

All this is a complete reversal from what the comptroller and the county’s budget specialists were projecting back in March when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. At that time, the comptrollers office was projecting to finish 2020 with a $34 million deficit.

With the large surplus, the county plans to put the statutorily required $5 million into their debt reserve, $2.5 million to support the Miller Park testing site and $5 million into such pandemic-related costs for 2021 like Personal Protective Equipment, the COVID-19 care facility at the House of Correction, the emergency operations center and eviction prevention.

The latest federal stimulus legislation signed by President Donald Trump includes an extension of the deadline for local governments to spend their CARES Act funds.

This extension is helpful… However, this extension came with no additional funding,” County Executive David Crowley said Tuesday during a media briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the county will finish the year with a large surplus, it received and allocated approximately $77 million in federal CARES Act funding and it remains to be seen if any such funding will be provided in the coming year. The pandemic will continue to be a burden on local governments in 2021, as it is expected to take six months just to scale up vaccinations to the level that they can be available to the general public.

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One thought on “MKE County: County Ends Year With a Surplus”

  1. gerrybroderick says:

    How about earmarking the surplus to aid our long neglected park system?

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