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Mayor Barrett concerned about pension payments to police and firefighters

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says there's an elephant in the room with the city budget - pension payments to police and firefighters.

Mayor Barrett says this is the first time in his 13 years as mayor he has come to council this early in the budget process and he wants everyone to know how big a problem the city has. The city was scheduled to spend $28 million more than it has, so the mayor’s proposed budget made up the difference by raising property taxes by 3.7% and cutting 33 police and 75 firefighter positions.

The mayor says most of the city’s problems could be solved if the state would give Milwaukee the authority to pass a half cent sales tax for public safety, but pension issues are not going away.

"We're going to have to look at what they do in other communities. I think we're going to have to look at what do we do for new employees. But when I came into office, our payment for our employee pensions was zero. For the first five years it was zero. Now it's going up to $83 million a year,” said Mayor Barrett.

The mayor says he will not simply cut pension payments and he won’t engage in the controversial backdrop program Milwaukee County started decades ago.

The budget office said Friday that specific pension solutions will be discussed behind closed doors.

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