County Executive Chris Abele
Press Release

County Executive Abele Announces Launch of “Engage Milwaukee” Initiative

Using a new software platform residents will be able to design and share their own budget for Milwaukee County.

By - Jun 14th, 2017 02:55 pm

MILWAUKEE – Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele today announced the launch of his new “Engage Milwaukee” initiative, a hands-on, first-of-its-kind community outreach and education campaign throughout the entire County designed to give the public more opportunities to make their voices heard on important issues.

Engage Milwaukee is an extension of County Executive Abele’s belief that Milwaukee County has everything it takes to be the best-run government in the country, but that we can only get there if we constantly aim to improve in all that we do. He also believes that a more interactive model of civic engagement and public input greatly increases our chance of success. Last year, as part of his budget process, County Executive Abele went beyond the standard practice of public hearings to host feedback circles facilitated by the Zeidler Center where residents learned about the County’s budget and were able to give meaningful input on specific issues and policy suggestions.

This year, we’re improving on that process even further with the Engage Milwaukee initiative. Using a new software platform, Balancing Act, County residents will be able to design and share their own budget for Milwaukee County. This tool will help the public more easily visualize and understand the difficulties in balancing the needs of competing priorities with finite resources. The Balancing Act software uses clear and transparent language to describe the County’s revenues and expenses, and then lets users determine their funding priorities – the only catch is, they have to balance revenue and spending, just like elected officials do.

Balancing Act users will begin with a budget that is $40 million in the hole, the same expected structural deficit County leaders will have to address in the upcoming budget. The point of the exercise is to guide users through a decision-making process that helps them understand the many real and difficult decisions policymakers will have to consider in order to balance the County’s budget.

Throughout the spring County staff piloted Balancing Act with a number of community and business leaders, neighborhood associations, elected officials, and advocates, specifically around challenges funding transit and transportation infrastructure. Their feedback opened up a productive dialogue that helped shape the Engage Milwaukee initiative.

We’re also inviting the community to continue the conversation on social media using the hashtag #EngageMKE. The goal is to have an honest, meaningful, and sustained conversation with the community throughout the budget season and beyond.

The county executive believes that engaged, informed citizens are essential to ensuring that our shared responsibilities — caring for our most vulnerable citizens, protecting our natural resources, fostering economic growth, and improving quality of life for everyone – are fully funded now and in the future.

“I feel strongly that the community should be heard as we make important decisions about where and how to invest our resources into programs and services that empower more people,” County Executive Chris Abele said. “We’ve made a lot of progress over the past six years but Milwaukee County is at a real crossroads. With an expected $40 million deficit in the upcoming budget, sustained progress will be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Engage Milwaukee allows the people to make their voices heard as County leaders address our fiscal challenges. I hope to learn from the public and earn their trust as I make decisions about the upcoming budget.”

Visit to view and submit a budget for Milwaukee County. A Balancing Act for Milwaukee County will be open to receive submissions through the end of August. Budget submissions are anonymous and will be received by our budget office, which will compile all the feedback we receive over the summer and share with the community in the fall.

Learn more about Balancing Act at:

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2 thoughts on “County Executive Abele Announces Launch of “Engage Milwaukee” Initiative”

  1. John Q. Public says:

    If you were to spend some time with this particular “education campaign” you will notice that there are 11 categories into which the “software platform” divides the entirety of the County budget.
    Within those categories, only the top 5 have any options to make changes. (these do include 3 of the largest categories)
    One can disagree with my synopsis of “shavable” services allowed by this campaign:
    Cat. 1 non-specific bus system cut based on a percentage of service
    Cat. 2 Sheriff’s Dept., Curbing opiate abuse, new 911 system
    Cat. 3 More Sheriff’s Dept., parks/facilities and cultural support
    Cat. 4 non-specific safety net programs, Behavioral division
    Cat. 5 increased emp. health care contributions AND wage freeze/pay clawback

    Spoiler Alert:
    If you choose maximum cuts from the ones provided, you are still $20.8mil in the red.
    -Option this platform does not provide is a time-machine to un-spend on a bunch of garbage, un-divert a bunch of local tax revenue to funding stuff, un-giveaway a bunch of land, and un-pay a bunch of consultants.
    Tip: MCTS (bus service) total budget is $160mil, but this platform’s 10% service cut ($16mil?) only yields a $6mil tax reduction -there might be about $10mil of “What is this about then?” -just in transit.

    Question: How do we have $52mil in yearly debt service while people on this planet are buying 0% interest bonds?

  2. Bob says:

    Oh this is a great opportunity for Milwaukee County Residents. They will be able to see first hand how this schmuck county exec abele attempts to double or triple salaries for his appointed boot lickers without the county board’s approval and in total disregard of established salary ranges.

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