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County Board Keeps Tax Hike To Bare Minimum

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on October 28, 2009

The County Board’s Audit and Finance Committee met well into the evening tonight, trying to figure out a way to fix Walker’s broken budget. They must have done a good job, because I can guarantee no one will be happy.

From Supervisor Elizabeth Coggs, Chairwoman of the Audit and Finance Committee:

Late Wednesday, the Milwaukee County Board’s Finance & Audit Committee approved an amended 2010 County Budget which calls for a property tax levy increase of 0.43%, the lowest increase in six years. For a City of Milwaukee home assessed at $150,000 last year, the County portion of the 2010 property tax bill will be approximately $12.83 less than 2009. Without the vehicle registration fee, the property tax levy increase would have been approximately 3.85%.

Supervisors have heard loud and clear that Milwaukee County residents face a high property tax burden. In a November advisory referendum, County residents voted in favor of providing property tax relief through a small increase in the sales tax. Unfortunately, despite the wishes of voters, the Governor and State Legislature have failed to give Milwaukee County this authority. The most responsible alternative, approved by the Committee this evening, was a vehicle registration fee along with a tax levy increase that is among the lowest in our region.

“Anyone who has actually read the budget proposal knows that County Supervisors faced the daunting task of fixing a $32 million budget hole left behind by the County Executive,” said Supervisor Elizabeth M. Coggs, Chair of the Finance & Audit Committee.

With the amendments approved today, the Committee laid the groundwork for meaningful, long-range structural changes in a number of areas, including wages, pensions and health care. “Responsibly, we are turning to County employees in a more reasonable manner to meet the fiscal challenges imposed by the current recession,” Supervisor Coggs added. “At the same time, we are restoring funding for key services including parks, public safety and human needs services for individuals who need the help most. They have nowhere else to turn.”

“We cannot continue to rely on the property tax. Unfortunately, we have not gotten any leadership from the County Executive, yet we balanced his broken budget with the lowest property tax increase possible,” said Supervisor Peggy West, Chair of the Health & Human Needs Committee. “Some may call this vehicle registration fee a tax. Fair enough, but understand that the County Executive’s budget proposal contained new taxes on the poor, the mentally ill, the disabled, and seniors. They are people, too, and we have done our best to minimize the impact on safety net services.”

To be honest, I would need to see the details before I get excited one way or the other about this budget. Walker has painted the County into a corner, and then, as his norm, abdicated his responsibilities so he can go campaigning.

During the course of the budget process, I’ve had contact with many of the Supervisors. These conversations usually have taken a positive tone, even if I did not always agree with their positions or their votes.

I appreciate the difficult position that Walker’s ineptitude and negligence has put them into. And I thank them for their efforts to try to minimize the pain to everyone as much as they could.

I applaud them on the rhetoric they use, pointing out that this mess is Walker’s fault. Anyone that wasn’t in a coma new that there was an economic crisis going on in the country, since it was the turning point in last year’s election, yet Walker and his 20 staffers chose not to do anything proactively to address the issue.

But rhetoric aside, I can’t help but wonder why the County Board continues to enable Walker’s bad behavior and willful negligence, when they should be actually holding him responsible for it.


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