Monday, September 26th, 2016

Abele to propose zero increase budget

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Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele is proposing a county budget with no increase in the tax levy.

But he avoids significant service cuts for next year, including any transit route reductions, and is not proposing any employee furloughs, Abele said.

His budget will include some job cuts, but they should not result in any significant layoffs, after retirements and transfers are factored in, officials said.

Abele and county Budget Director Craig Kammholz previewed the county executive’s budget in an interview. Full details won’t be divulged until Thursday, when Abele formally delivers his budget to the County Board. He also plans to unveil more budget details Wednesday at Moody Park, at N. 21st St. and W. Auer Ave.

It will be Abele’s second budget since he succeeded Gov. Scott Walker as county executive in April 2011.

Abele said he’d taken a conservative approach to budgeting and did not include any iffy revenue, such as proceeds from county land sales. He said his approach to next year’s budget was aimed at putting the county on a path to a more stable budget so that each year doesn’t start with a hole that needs to be filled.

“It’s all about focusing on not just next year, it’s how do we get to a lean, robust, healthy, adaptable county,” he said. That approach should eventually lead to considering service enhancements each year rather than cuts, he said.

The property tax freeze, if approved by the board, would keep the county portion of the property tax levy at $275 million for 2013. That figure builds on the final version of the 2012 budget as approved by the board, which added about $6 million more than Abele proposed.

The county could increase its levy by up to $4.4 million for 2013, under the state’s levy cap.

The only fee he’s proposing to increase is a $5 increase for marriage licenses, to $110, Abele said.

Of course, regular readers of this website knew that a zero-increase budget was coming. It’ll be interesting to see how much the County Board fights the increases in the share of health care premiums paid by county employees, or if the unions fight the idea of a merit reward system.

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