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Budget Brief: Milwaukee County 2014 Executive Budget

On its surface, the 2014 Milwaukee County recommended budget is the latest and most definitive testimony of the remarkable turnaround in the county’s financial picture. Unlike previous years, the list of controversial budget cuts is relatively short. Meanwhile, the budget makes significant new investments in areas that have suffered for years without increasing property taxes or deepening the county’s debt burden.
Indeed, the county’s overall financial condition – which five years ago was in “intensive care” – has progressed beyond “critical” and is heading toward “stable.” The county’s latest long-range forecast shows that a five-year structural deficit pegged at $125 million just two years ago now stands closer to $75 million. While that hole still is substantial, and while the forecasting model does not fully account for the county’s infrastructure repair backlog and all of its service-level needs, the effort to achieve structural balance no longer looks like a hopeless proposition.