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Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013

Issue of the Week: Milwaukee County Residents Ask Supervisors to Fix Abele’s Budget

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The corporate media have been giving Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele’s $1.3 billion no-tax-increase budget a rather positive spin. But the 18 Milwaukee County supervisors got an earful on Monday night when they heard the public’s reaction to Abele’s budget and the board’s attempts to fix it.

Testimony was overwhelmingly in favor of saving the city’s two indoor pools, which Abele would demolish and replace with a splash pad (at Pulaski) and a skate park (at Noyes). The board, led by Chair Marina Dimitrijevic, would like to take Brown Deer resident Stanley Kass’ generous offer to pay for the pools’ repair—in honor of his late wife, Lee, an avid swimmer at Noyes pool—if the county is also willing to pledge some funds too. No one spoke up in favor of Abele’s proposal to rip out the pools.

Milwaukee county employees and retirees also criticized Abele’s plan to force them to pay 28.9% of their health care costs, up from 12.6% when Abele took office. For an average employee with kids on the county’s insurance plan, that translates to a 7.34% pay cut. Of course, Abele’s regressive plan is weighted toward the wealthy. Since the insurance costs are fixed across the board, employees who earn less would pay a higher proportion of their salary toward their benefits. Those who spoke up said they simply cannot afford to make ends meet as their salaries continue to shrink under Abele’s management.

Residents and employees also cautioned the board about Abele’s plan to downsize the county’s mental health services. While there is a general consensus to do so, those who spoke up said Abele’s timeline is too aggressive and private hospitals simply won’t provide the kind of care that those with the most acute needs require.

None spoke up in favor of Abele’s plan to allow municipal police departments to patrol the parks or his request to use $400,000 of taxpayer funds to pay for his personal security detail.

The board is scheduled to vote on the final budget Nov. 12.