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Milwaukee Mayor Johnson unveils 2024 budget for a 'pivot year'

Milwaukee City Hall is seen Wednesday, June 14, 2023, in Milwaukee.
Morry Gash
Milwaukee City Hall is seen Wednesday, June 14, 2023, in Milwaukee.

On Tuesday, Mayor Cavalier Johnson presented his 2024 budget for the City of Milwaukee to the Common Council, saying his $1.9 billion proposal is about making next year a “pivot year.”

A pivot from the dire financial situation that the city faced last year, when Johnson called for drastic cuts to city services.

“I want to talk about the budget that I am not presenting today,” he said. “I’m not closing branch libraries. I’m not imposing furlough days or hiring freezes on our employees. I’m not closing firehouses. I’m not cutting police sworn strength.”

The passage of a bipartisan deal in the Legislature this summer provided game-changing funding to the city and municipalities across Wisconsin. The deal allows local governments to raise sales taxes.

a black man in a suit speaks at a podium
City of Milwaukee
Mayor Johnson unveiled his budget proposal in an address to the Common Council.

As a result, both the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County will increase sales taxes at the start of next year. The city comptroller estimates the 2.4% increase will bring an additional $184 million to the city in 2024.

“For the first time in decades, we’ll have an increase in state shared revenue,” Johnson said. “And for the first time in more than a century, we have diversified our tax revenue sources so that we’re no longer only relying on the property tax.”

The mayor called for significant investments to improve public safety and strengthen neighborhoods by demolishing blighted homes, improving roads, revamping street lights and building out green infrastructure. City employees would see modest raises after years of stagnant pay.

Johnson also called for staffing increases in the fire and police departments, in compliance with that shared revenue deal, known as Act 12.

Act 12 introduced several provisions that Wisconsin's largest city must meet to use the sales tax funding, some of which raise costs for the city. Still, Johnson believes Milwaukee is on a path toward fiscal stability.

“One year has made a world of difference. One year,” he said. “So, as we stay on a responsible course, we can look ahead to stability in our finances; greater confidence among city employees; and [for] our residents, growing assurance that the city services that they need, that they expect, and that they deserve, will be there.”

In the coming weeks, the Common Council will hear community input and draft amendments before voting on a final budget in November. Residents can weigh in during two upcoming sessions on October 2 and 16.

Lina is a WUWM news reporter.
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