MKE resident on public safety cuts: 'It's ridiculous to...think response times are going to be OK'

MILWAUKEE - There were nearly two hours of discussion on the 2018 Milwaukee city budget Monday and a lot of it focused on public safety.

"The crime rate is skyrocketing in the city right now," said Milwaukee resident Jimmy Hope.

The budget proposed would cut police and firefighters, plus close six firehouses. Those closures would likely lead to higher response times from fire crews but it would still be under the national average. Some neighbors near Brady Street's Engine 6, which is slated for closure, are worried.

"It's ridiculous to sit and think response times are going to be ok," said Donna Olson, who lives on Brady Street.

Mayor Tom Barrett said there is an option: The city could raise the money through a half-cent sales tax. But state lawmakers have to approve changing a law to allow that to happen. 

"We can avoid these cuts to the police department and we can dramatically lessen these cuts to the fire department if the state allows us to move forward with our plan to take to the voters a referendum question," Barrett said.

But even if the change is allowed, residents would still have to vote to approve raising the sales tax. That would not happen until the April elections. The budget must be approved in November,

The next budget hearing is Wednesday, Oct. 11 at 6 p.m. on the UWM Campus in Lubar Hall, 3202 N. Maryland Ave., Room N140.

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