Projected $28M gap in Milwaukee County's 2020 budget 'the most important challenge we have'

City of Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE COUNTY -- A projected $28 million gap in Milwaukee County’s 2020 budget resulted in proposed cuts to the Milwaukee County Parks System and Milwaukee County Transit System. With the demand for cuts growing, county leaders said a sustainable funding solution is needed before too much damage is done -- and you're invited to help.

"People have a right to be concerned," said Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.

Abele said Milwaukee County has been turning a profit for the state, but every year, less of that money is returned to Milwaukee County.

City of Milwaukee

Chris Abele

"What we're getting back from the state is flat, or declining even," Abele said.

Abele said the county is at a tipping point.

"If you don't solve this, Milwaukee is going to start losing whole departments," said Abele.

County leaders said they've worked hard to reduce the county's footprint, streamline operations, and save millions of taxpayer dollars, while continuing to better serve county residents, but the Milwaukee County Park System is struggling to deal with rising maintenance costs, and Milwaukee County Transit System is slashing routes.

"We've developed a budget that preserves services for 97% of ridership in 2020," said Dan Boehm, managing director for MCTS.

Dan Boehm

Abele said he's got a plan to fix that.

" Chairman Lipscomb and I put together this 'Fair Deal Task Force'," said Abele. "We're working with the Legislature and having discussion after discussion to say, 'Hey, what we want in the county is, we need to be able to control our own destiny'."

Abele said the Fair Deal Task Force works by using finance data to change the minds of state legislators, but said progress is slow.

"There's nothing that requires the state legislators to say, 'Hey, if you're giving us 'X' amount, some set percentage comes back here'," Abele said.

Abele said he was hopeful the "Fair Deal" would give Milwaukee County a fair chance at keeping its head above water, because there's a lot on the line.

"This is the single largest and most important challenge we have in the county, and the city, and all the here," said Abele.

A big part of the budget process being a success is community engagement. County leaders said, "While we continue working with the state to find a sustainable funding solution, we are relying on community input through Balancing Act and during the entire budget process to ensure we pass a responsible, balanced budget for 2020."

Town hall meetings are being held from 6-8 p.m. on:

    How would you balance Milwaukee County's budget? Give it a shot, by CLICKING HERE.  Use the Balancing Act tool to analyze the county’s $1.2 billion operating budget, and make tough choices necessary to close the gap.