Budget includes tax increases, but maintains police department resources
Providing adequate municipal services in very difficult economic times while maintaining fiscal discipline was the theme of Mayor Tom Barrett’s 2012 Milwaukee city budget address Tuesday before the Common Council at City Hall.
Barrett praised the Council for working with him in lowering crime, creating jobs, improving the city infrastructure; he lauded the redevelopment successes, effective delivery of core services and a credit rating that is superior to Milwaukee County and the state.
Saying his 2012 budget promotes financial sustainability, Barrett revealed that the proposed tax levy will increase by less than two-thirds of one percent, bringing the three-year average trend to less than 1.5 percent a year.
Barrett told the Council if they approved the proposed level of municipal service charges, the typical residential property owner will experience a 1.4 percent increase ($20) from the impact of the tax levy and municipal charges.
“Quite simply, it’s your willingness as members of the Common Council under the leadership of President (Willie) Hines to join me in embracing difficult changes that has enabled the city to remain effective in its service delivery and sustainable in its finances.”
During an exclusive MCJ interview after his address, Barrett pointed to a number of accomplishments with the 2012 budget, one of which includes an increase in library hours.
As rough as the economy is at the moment, the mayor said it was important to restore the Central and neighborhood library service hours.
“People use the libraries as a resource,” Barrett said, noting the various services the libraries offer, from learning computer skills and creating resumes to researching a new business venture. “We want to make sure this resource is available to our citizens.”
The proposed budget also provides and maintains the Milwaukee Police Department’s resources that allow it to continue providing high level policing.
The mayor pointed to a 33.5% decline in violent crime and a 25% decline in property crime for the first six months of 2011 compared to the first six months of 2007.
Barrett credited the department’s application of analysis-driven deployment, staffing and service delivery alternatives, as well as constructive community relations for the decline.
Praising Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn and Milwaukee Fire Chief Mark Rohlfing for keeping overtime to a minimum, Barrett revealed the 2012 budget makes room for a slight increase in overtime, especially for the MPD, which will draw on its overtime budget for the Neighborhood Task Force and other initiatives, without compromising district based operations.
The budget will allow the Fire Department to utilize an innovative staffing approach that will enhance its ability to provide medical responses, which comprise more than 80% of all service calls.
Two two-person squads will be located in stations that are in the center of the city’s highest volume Emergency Medical Service (EMS) call areas. This innovation, according to the mayor, will support the continuation of the department’s high survival rates in a cost-effective manner.
Expressing his displeasure with the lack of diversity in the incoming class of fire fighters during the interview, the mayor revealed the creation of a fire cadet program in the budget, which will focus on attracting well-deserving Milwaukee youth.
“Through this program we are going to accomplish two of my goals for the department,” Barrett said during his budget address. “We will ensure that incoming firefighters are well trained and we will work to increase diversity in the Fire Department.”
Stressing the need to decrease severe Infant Mortality racial disparities (Infant Mortality rates are three times higher among Black Milwaukee women than their White counter-parts.), the mayor will direct the City Health Department to reallocate a larger share of its nursing resources to proactive, evidence-based home visitation services.
These services, coupled with programs offering free cribs, public education about safe sleep, proper prenatal care, the importance of breastfeeding and childhood immunizations, have been shown to improve prenatal health and birth outcomes.
The city is also working with the United Way to build a community-wide infant mortality coalition with stakeholders from across the public, private and non-profit sector.
“Every child in our city deserves to be born strong with a good start and a great chance at a healthy and productive life,” Barrett told the Council.
The 2012 budget also addresses the community’s concerns about the new State law requiring voter identification. The mayor noted in his speech that many citizens in need of identification will pursue a State identification card from WisDOT, adding possession of a valid birth certificate facilitates obtaining such an ID.
Barrett’s budget includes funding to help process requests for birth certificates through the Milwaukee Health Department. The Department of Administration has initiated discussions with potential grantors to help reimburse citizens for all or part of he $20 cost of a birth certificate.
“It’s important that the city do what it can to protect our citizens’ right to vote without financial penalty,” said Barrett, who recognized the leadership of Ald. Milele Coggs on this issue.
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