Due to budget cuts, Milwaukee could lose 84 police officers
Mayor Tom Barrett raised concerns that the PD budget is now greater than the tax levy for the entire city, and has been since 2016
By Mary Spicuzza
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
MILWAUKEE — The City of Milwaukee could be forced to cut 84 police officer positions in next year's budget, Mayor Tom Barrett said.
"I do not want to have fewer police officers in this city," Barrett said Friday in an interview with the Journal Sentinel. "I'm trying to do everything I can to find a way to avoid this."
Barrett also warned that Milwaukee may be forced to eliminate 75 firefighter positions, six public health nurses and 10 code inspector jobs — and close two libraries — in the 2018 budget.
"I view all of this in the context of public safety and, actually, crime prevention in many respects," Barrett said.
Barrett said the budget cuts would have an immediate effect on the number and sizes of recruit classes next year.
The 2018 budget request was $26.9 million higher than the 2017 budget, he said. One of the areas that will see a significant increase is pension payments, especially to police and firefighters.
That's partly due to a wave of retirements linked to a surge in officer hirings in the early and mid-1990s. That wave has been larger than expected this year, and by the end of May, 90 sworn police officers had already retired in 2017.
"We are facing a more daunting horizon than we have in the past," Barrett said.
Bracing for a budget cut to his department totaling as much as $7.3 million, Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn proposed "eliminating recruit classes for 2018."
"This proposed budget would reduce sworn strength of the Milwaukee Police Department to 1,748, the fewest officers in this century," Flynn wrote in a Friday letter to Mark Nicolini, the city's budget and management director.
The current average sworn strength is 1,888. Flynn's letter was referring to the projected 2018 year end number for sworn strength.
On Friday, Barrett again raised concerns that the Police Department budget is now greater than the tax levy for the entire city, and has been since 2016.
The mayor also has been urging Gov. Scott Walker and state lawmakers to increase shared revenue payments to the city. That has not happened.
"We have been working to try to have people understand that this is just a fiscally unsustainable arrangement," Barrett said.
Tom Evenson, a Walker spokesman, did not respond to a request for comment.
Barrett again pointed to the money Milwaukee sends to the state, insisting it's a "powerful economic engine" that helps drive the state's economy. But he warned Milwaukee's growth could be hampered by steep public safety cuts.
"I don't know that anybody thinks it's good to have a significant reduction in the size of the Milwaukee Police Department," Barrett said. "I certainly don't, and will do everything I can to make sure that we don't."
Barrett said he was open to having the Legislative Fiscal Bureau review his numbers to confirm that they're accurate.
Some of Barrett's comments Friday echoed those in his annual "State of the City" address in March, when he pushed back against the idea that Milwaukee is draining resources from the rest of Wisconsin.
The amount of revenue generated in Milwaukee exceeded the amount of state aid paid to the city, county and Milwaukee Public Schools by more than $460 million in 2015, he has said. He has called it the "Milwaukee Dividend," noting that the city gets back only about 66% of what it sends to Madison.
©2017 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel