PEOPLE-Local 645

  • Quality of Life Alliance

Budgetgeddon!

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on June 22, 2010

From Milwaukee County First:

As predicted, Scott Walker is planning on running his gubernatorial campaign

Scott Walker hard at work on the budget

on the backs of Milwaukee County citizens.

JSOnline is giving a sneak preview of the 2011 recommended budgets which Walker’s departmental heads came up with based on the expectations that Walker gave them to follow.

Needless to say, the prospects are grim indeed.

But there are some interesting parts as well.  One such tidbit is what is coming out regarding BHD, which has been repeatedly slammed over the past six months as the fruits of Walker’s poor budgeting skills come to bloom:

In fact, some officials lean the other direction, seeking to bulk up their budgets. For instance, the division that oversees the Mental Health Complex wants an extra $14 million for 2011, proposing to add 43 more nurses, aides and administrators and to train them better. That request comes on the heels of critical state and federal inspections of the complex.

Walker has said that “nothing is being ruled out” but general tax increases.

One of the possibilities that Walker is floating out there is yet more privatization, even though we have seen from experience that this has yet to work out to anyone’s benefit, except maybe the CEOs of the companies winning the contracts, and Walker if those CEOs happen to give him a little favor in return.

I would suspect that the possible targets for privatization would include his perinneal favorites, including targeted case management and community support program workers as well as the remainder of the parks workers.

Another idea floated by Walker was to demand more concessions from the county workers.  This is in spite of the fact that the County is still embroiled in various court hearings and arbitration procedures regarding his illegally budgeting similar cuts during contract negotiations.

This proposal  is also disregarding the fact that he has yet to get most of the concessions that he wanted this year.   That he is even talking about this again shows that he either doesn’t understand what is going on and why he is currently facing a $7 million deficit or that he does understand and doesn’t care if he is going to stick Milwaukee taxpayers with an exploding deficit.

Anyway, the reporter, Steve Schultze gives us an outline of what we can expect from the recommended budgets:

Behavioral Health: $200.7 million, with $70 million from property taxes. The $14 million increase would help cover state aid cuts and provide more money to deal with issues raised by state and federal regulators. Those include building upgrades and a variety of staff mistakes that figured into patient assaults. About $8.2 million would go toward fringe-benefit cost increases and new hires; $1.2 million for more overtime; and $560,000 for better security at the Mental Health Complex.

Transit: $165.5 million. That includes $20.8 million from property taxes, up $1.6 million. To partially offset state and federal funding cuts, 13 routes are proposed for elimination, including Freeway Flyer routes, and others would be shortened. Walker said he’s more likely to propose fare increases than route cuts. Fare boosts between 25 cents and $1 were suggested under the 5% and 10% cut scenarios.

Sheriff’s office: $160.7 million, including $141.2 million from property taxes. Half of a nearly $20 million increase is a paper shuffle – costs of bailiffs would switch from the courts to Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr.’s budget. The rest of the increase was pegged to fringe-benefit cost increases and cuts from renting jail space for state and federal prisoners.

Parks: $45.4 million, with $24.2 million coming from property taxes, up $724,268. The Martin Luther King Jr. and Kosciusko Park community centers are proposed for closing, though past efforts have been repeatedly overturned by the County Board. Parks Director Sue Black lists closure of all deep-well pools, the Wehr Nature Center and Mitchell Park Domes as backup plans in case her budget gets cut up to 10%.

Zoo: $24.3 million, with $4.8 million coming from property taxes – up about $1 million. Zoo Director Chuck Wikenhauser suggests closing exhibits if a 10% cut is imposed. That would mean euthanizing or giving away bears, kangaroos, emus, otters, meerkats, vampire bats and other creatures. Walker called that scenario unlikely.

Now, keep in mind that these are the recommended proposals, but they are also the base from which Walker will build his formal proposed budget.  Walker does not have to follow all, or any, of the recommendations.  He has a long history of going away from recommended budgets, most notable of which is the killing of the proposed secure ward at BHD which would have prevented a lot of the problems we’re seeing now, including female patients being sexually assaulted.

But if Walker follows through with some of these recommendations, such as cutting the Freeway Flyers, closing the Domes, closing the Wehr Nature Center, closing the pools or killing off some of the animals at the zoo, he will become extremely unpopular with a larger segment of the community that he might want to tick off during an electoral year.

But I think that there are two more things that we can rule out for the 2011 budget:  That is will be balanced and that it will be responsible.

Walker is supposed to be having a public viewing of the recommended budgets on July 1.

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