Policymakers in the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County are debating the merits of proposed budgets for the coming fiscal year and weighing legislative priorities with fiscal responsibility.
Every year, the Wisconsin Policy Forum scrutinizes these budget proposals and offers some analysis. This year is no exception. What is an exception is the relatively non-controversial nature of the proposals.
"It’s really a contrast with this time last year — when going into the 2018 budgets, there were needs for substantial cuts, and in the case of the county, the county executive had proposed a $30 increase in the vehicle registration fee. But this year, very few fireworks," says Rob Henken, president of the forum.
These budget proposals benefitted from overestimating the spending they incurred in 2018. Milwaukee County had projected that spending on health care would be much higher in 2018 than it actually was.
Henken explains, "They ended up saving about $10 million — or will save, by the end of the year. Consequently, their project for 2019 health care spending doesn't go up at all ... Also, their pension fund contribution is not going up '19. Those are the two factors that usually combine to make a very difficult budget climate and they're flat this year."
Similarly, the city of Milwaukee's 2018 budget misjudged how much money the city would spend, resulting in surplus of funds.
"The city's pension fund actuary overestimated the amount of the city property tax levey, employee contribution that would be needed in 2018 by a whopping $13.4 million," says Henken.