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Milwaukee Mayor Outlines 2015 Proposed Budget

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Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Tuesday outlined the budget he’d like the city to adopt for 2015. He delivered his blueprint to the Common Council. Among the changes Barrett wants – a boost in public safety and a pay raise for city workers. The mayor also wants to expand the city’s job training program.

The city’s transitional jobs program funds short-term positions that teach residents jobs skills. For example, one program teaches crews how to demolish abandoned garages. Mayor Barrett wants the city to help more unemployed people.

“Building on our success, we will expand this program to include 130 job opportunities in city departments. Some of these jobs will include monitoring our city inventory of foreclosed homes, while at the same time being trained by city inspectors in Neighborhood Services. The individuals hired for these positions will build skills toward full-time employment while making our city’s neighborhood stronger,” Barrett says.

Another way the mayor says he’s looking to stabilize neighborhoods is by increasing the number of police officers on the streets. The city will prepare 85 new officers for 2015. Yet Barrett stresses the need for more diversity.

“I want to thank Chief Flynn and the men and women of the police department for their commitment, but we also need a department that reflects the people we serve. Common Council members, please, bring us recruits from your districts and help them succeed in the process,” Barrett says.

The mayor also wants the police department to experiment with body cameras on officers, to better document interactions with residents. His budget includes $100,000 for a pilot program.

Another expenditure would be pay raises for city employees, outside of police and fire fighters – they still have union contracts.

“Given the sacrifices made by general city employees over the last several years with mandatory layoffs, and increases in health care contributions my budget proposal also includes compensation for general city employees,” Barrett says.

Barrett says he doesn’t yet know exactly how much of an increase city workers can expect; it will depend, in part, on the length of time they’ve worked for the city.  At the same time, the mayor says the city will continue to eliminate positions.

“You’ve seen a reduction in our workforce of hundreds of people over the time I’ve been mayor. We have done it through attrition primarily and efficiencies. You’re going to continue to see that,” Barrett says.

“Fortunately, the cuts that you see in many other cities across the country where they’ve laid off police officers, cut firefighters, we haven’t had to go that route.”

That’s common Council President Michael Murphy.  

“We’ve been able to work smarter and more efficient (ly) so admittedly our employees are certainly working a lot harder than they ever have before. They’re taking on more responsibilities and duties,” Murphy says. 

All in all, Murphy says the mayor has laid out a solid plan and now it’s time for the council to get to work. A public hearing is scheduled for October 6, and a final vote on November 7.

The mayor’s version would raise the average property tax bill by about $21.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.