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Milwaukee mayor proposes 1st budget, includes cuts to services

Mayor Cavalier Johnson has had to answer a question that you're likely struggling with at home: How much money to spend, and where to cut.
Posted at 5:55 AM, Sep 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-20 18:13:57-04

MILWAUKEE — We are getting a first look at Mayor Cavalier Johnson's proposed budget for 2023. It includes staffing cuts to the city's police and fire departments.

The mayor revealed his proposal Tuesday morning and told the Milwaukee Common Council that the culprit of the cuts is a lack of revenue.

Read the budget in full here.

Before he even began talking numbers, the mayor underlined the city's fiscal constraints. In fact, he went as far as to say that the city is hamstrung and now forced to cut services.

Here is a snapshot of the numbers.

The mayor's total budget proposal is $1.7 billion and includes a 3-percent increase in the tax levy. A typical homeowner will pay about $48 more in taxes and fees.

cavalier johnson
Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson

But the big message from the mayor was that costs are climbing and revenue is flat. Because of that, he's proposed a 1-percent staffing reduction to the police department, which comes out to 17 positions. The mayor says that will be covered by attrition, but he can't say that will be the case in the future. The fire department is also earmarked for staffing cuts.

As for how to address Milwaukee's fiscal problem the mayor says his attention is focused on Madison; he's actually heading there Tuesday to again speak with lawmakers. Mayor Johnson says legislators have the power to unlock additional revenue options for our city. Currently, Milwaukee does not have access to a hotel tax, an income tax or a sales tax. He's optimistic action could be taken in the upcoming legislative session.

"Our partners in the legislature realize that we have a fundamental problem. It's going to get really bad - it already is bad - it's going to get worse if they don't come up with a solution to help us solve the problem," Johnson said to the Common Council.

The mayor's 2023 budget plan involves using ARPA money to avoid what he calls draconian cuts. But it's not a long-term solution.

And the mayor says Milwaukee is not alone. He's talked to leaders of other communities in Wisconsin who are looking at drastic cuts in services, even going as far as considering turning off every other streetlight to save money.

Cuts could come to the city's libraries, including 17 fewer positions possibly.

Under the mayor's proposal four branches would limit hours, as well as, use of computes and community rooms while working with less staff. Programming would be eliminated at those sites.

However, those impacted branches will be near other branches that are adding staff to do outreach.

"Some people don't have access. They can't come. they can't go to a different location this is the only location they had," said Myles Horton, who uses the library regularly.

"At the same time, you will see more pop-up libraries bringing resources, services, and wi-fi to targeted communities and events. Online and virtual resources will see a revamp and expansion," Mayor Johnson said.

The Martin King Luther branch would close next spring while a new building is constructed.

It was not clear which branches would impacted and how.

The library will also revamp and expand virtual resources.

"My biggest hope is that it's it gives us a benefit. A lot of times you know we're promised benefits that or we're promise we're gonna get these resources which we don't always see all the time," said Jaycelan Stewart, another regular visitor to the library.

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