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Mayor Barrett: budget plan involves "historic" investment in lead removal programs

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Mayor Tom Barrett says the 2019 budget plan he rolled out Tuesday shows the city’s commitment to addressing problems with lead.

“$20 million dollars is extremely important," Barrett said. "And it’s the largest investment that I've been able to see in city history to address these issues.”

The Milwaukee mayor said more than $7 million would go toward removing lead paint from old houses, the rest would go toward giving out water filters, and removing 1,000 lead pipes.

But the organization Get the Lead Out says the move is too late.

“ This is a process that should have begun four years ago,” Get the Lead Out's Robert Miranda said.                  

And he doesn’t think there is enough specific, aggressive action behind the money.

“This is an attempt to try to get people to believe things are happening, when they’re really not.”

The budget increased property taxes by 2.4 percent and city fees by 3 percent.

The average resident will pay close to $50  more in 2019, according the mayor's office. Barrett says the city’s revenue is constrained because of state law.

“The only significant tax we are allowed to collect is the property tax," Barrett said. "And that tax is capped by state law.”

The mayor says it’s a tight budget, but it was easier to pull off than last years, which saw cuts to the police and fire departments.This budget proposal adds ten police positions and hires 100 officers.

“Last year was a very difficult budget, particularly for the fire department and the police department, and this year, we’ve been able to really make adjustments.”

The proposal now goes to the common council to make changes. They will ultimately have to pass a budget.

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