With the Milwaukee County Board ready to meet for Budget Adoption Day on Monday, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele has shown signs of desperation for his old budget which was nothing more
than a grand illusion met to deceive the taxpayers and the citizens of Milwaukee County.
He’s taking all the refuge he can in order to defend his myopic budget, resorting to the Public Policy Forum, which he financially supports through both the Greater Milwaukee Committee and his own personal group, Argosy as well as with the corporate media giant Journal Communications, including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and talk radio.
His latest attempt to mislead the people came on Thursday in the form of an email blast with the ironic subject line of “Government only works when you are watching.”
He list several bullet points, but are incomplete if not utterly dishonest.
For example, his first point is:
Raises taxes nearly $4 million.
Abele actually omits two facts here.
One, is that the tax increase, if adopted and stands up to his veto, would be an increase of just over 1% of the county portion of property taxes, which is 16% of the total tax a property owner pays.
Secondly, given the way the state law is currently written, this would be the last year for the county to raise taxes for the future. The fact that neither Abele or the Board took that into consideration, the following budget will be devastating.
Abele’s next point is both incomplete and dishonest:
Cuts employee pay raises in half and slash a first-of-its-kind $500,000 employee bonus program that would have recognized outstanding County workers who go above and beyond what is asked of them.
As we have pointed out before, the raises that Abele offered were an insult when compared to the cuts he would put on workers’ salaries in the form of higher deductions, higher copays, higher premiums and the removal of all funding for flexible health savings accounts. By reducing the raises, but restoring some of the cuts made through the health care costs, it is much fairer to the workers, even though it is still higher than what Act 10 called for. It should also be noted that Act 10 has since been ruled unconstitutional, making any of these changes illegal.
This would also be a hard thing to sell to people in light that Abele has included a 20% increase in the executive’s budget, including the addition of new staff and raises for others.
Abele’s first budget has already had negative effects of creating higher staff turnover rates and spending an increasing amount of taxpayer dollars on training rather than on services. His proposed budget would have only made this situation much worse.
Furthermore, Abele’s “bonus program” would be illegal under county ordinances, most notably the ethics code and recently codified parts of the former contract.
It should be mentioned, as we had earlier, that many of Abele’s moves regarding workers’ benefits have been challenged in court. Each challenge has thus far been successful, meaning that not only is Abele not saving money, he is increasing the cost through legal fees.
Another one of Abele’s points deals with the deal he made with his friend, Mayor Tom Barrett:
Cuts the City/County Parks Patrol Plan, a collaboration that would have saved $5.2 million over three years
This is basically the first phase in a move to spin off parts of Milwaukee County in his plan to end Milwaukee County Government. It would shift a greater tax burden on the City of Milwaukee and unfairly distribute suburban tax dollars to pay for City Services. This plan would not have saved money as much as simply shifted it and it would have done nothing to make the parks safer. This plan has received overwhelming negative responses from urban and suburban citizens and has been panned by both progressive and conservatives. It’s a bad plan that should never have been introduced and we commend the Board for rejecting it.
In what could be described as his most comical complaint is this one:
Slashes critical positions in the Budget Office and Human Resources Department while adding a position to the Board’s own staff that already includes 56 people.
When Abele appeared on the John Mercure show on WTMJ – 620 AM on Wednesday, he decried the cuts to Human Resources saying he needed this Department to help hire only the best workers available.
Yes, in his first year and a half in office, Abele has shown that this is not the case. Consider these events of Abele’s “best workers”:
- Sue Black – Director of Parke Department: Abele though to highly of her, he gave her a considerable raise in salary to keep her in Milwaukee, then turned around and fired her for unknown reasons.
- Frank Busalacchi – Director of Transit and Public Works: Also fired suddenly with no explanation given by Abele.
- Jim Tietjen – Associate Director of Operations: Fired for running his personal business through his county office.
- Patrick Farley – Director of Administration: Participated in an effort to frame former Supervisor Johnny Thomas. Admitted to lying to Thomas in order to entrap him.
If this is Abele’s top talent and if this is the way he treats them, Abele is going to need more than an extra staff person or two in Human Resources to find and keep top caliber help.
Overall, the amendments proposed by the County Board’s Finance, Audit and Personnel Committee are much better than Abele’s budget, but it is still a long way from ideal. It does little to nothing to prepare for the future when budget’s will suffer more due to the state failing to meet its duties as responsible administrators of their own budget.
The County’s first priority is to start a serious and concerted effort to find a dedicated funding source for the Transit and Parks Departments. This needs to be started immediately. Without it, the Transit System is looking at stark cuts to services, which will lead to greater job losses and a worsening regional economy.
Call or email your County Supervisor today and tell them to stand up against the plutocrats and profiteers and to stand with the citizens of Milwaukee County by pursuing a balanced and fair budget.
Also call County Executive Abele at 414-278-4211 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell him that we are watching and that neither he nor his budget are working for us.