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Mayor Barrett unveils 2013 Milwaukee budget plan

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MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett unveiled his budget plan for the city of Milwaukee for the 2013 fiscal year in a speech to the Milwaukee Common Council on Thursday morning, September 27th. While Barrett's budget proposal includes savings for taxpayers, some aldermen are showing apprehension to the plan.

This week, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele announced in his Milwaukee County Budget proposal is a change in the way Milwaukee County Parks are policed. Abele wants parks patrolled by officers from the Milwaukee Police Department — not the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office.

The new parks’ policing plan is the first major County/City initiative in over a decade. Under a negotiated agreement, the Milwaukee Police Department would formally assume policing duties in 2013 at County Parks in the city of Milwaukee — including the lakefront.

The plan would cut $3.1 million from the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office budget, and $1.6 million would go to the Milwaukee Police Department to pick up patrols. $125,000 would go to suburban departments.

Abele's plan is something Mayor Barrett said he stands by.

"We felt this was good for the taxpayers. We'd improve communications, and it will certainly help public safety," Mayor Barrett said.

Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines said he believes this part of the city budget proposal will be the most difficult to pass.

"We need to make certain they're able to deliver on those services -- number one that police services will not be compromised throughout the city," Hines said.

Mayor Barrett's $1.5 billion 2013 city budget includes a $13 million reduction to city operations, eliminating 112 positions through attrition. Mayor Barrett said there will be no layoffs. City workers will have three furlough days -- the same as last year, but next year, police officers will be included.

Mayor Barrett's budget proposal also calls for savings for taxpayers. The average homeowner will see an estimated $26 decrease on their tax and city services bill next year -- a savings due in part to declining property values and restructuring.

"In a very difficult economic time, we're very, very pleased that we're able to maintain the core services without layoffs and without increases in taxes," Mayor Barrett said.

Other highlights of Mayor Barrett's budget proposal include:

  • $65 million in structural improvements over the next four years to put the city budget closer to balance. Barrett says his four-year plan will apply a "3-R" strategy to achieve that balance -- resizing, restructuring and reinvesting.
  • Modest increases to municipal service charges. It amounts to an annual increase of $17 for a typical homeowner with one garbage cart.
  • An increase of almost $1.3 million in overtime to enable continuation of the Neighborhood Task Force and other strategic deployments.
  • A $2.2 million increase for the city's street paving program for 2013. That's 15% higher than the level in 2012.
  • Consolidating two areas of information technology under the Department of Administration. First, networking, telecommunications and support functions move from the Department of Public Works. Barrett says the proposal will save $135,000 without reducing staffing levels.

Mayor Barrett's budge plan will now be debated by the Common Council. It will be voted on in the coming weeks.

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