Milwaukee mayor proposes new police budget with virtually no money cut from 2020
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett released his 2021 budget proposal Tuesday, Sept. 22, which included a nearly $300 million police budget that was within $1 million of the department's 2020 allotment.
Despite the financial total being nearly the same, the plan calls to cut 120 officer positions. Barrett said those personnel costs were offset by increases to police benefits, pensions and healthcare. He also said, he doesn't see much room to cut more dollars without simply cutting more officer positions, which he does not want.
“Last year we got 173,000 calls for service," Barrett said. "That means there were 173,000 times when somebody was on the other line saying, I need help. I need help. And we can’t turn our back to that.”
The cuts of 120 officers and less than $1 million are significantly less than the call city alders made to slash the department's budget by 10 percent, which would mean close to $30 million. Alderwoman JoCasta Zamarripa said 10 percent was the middle ground to the 25 percent cut some activists wanted.
“I thought that the Common Council was pragmatic and thoughtful in looking for a plan for a 10 percent cut, so I don’t want to stop talking about it,” Zamarripa said.
Milwaukee area activist Frank Nitty also said the cuts do not accomplish protesters' goals.
“If you cut 120 officers, but you’re still giving them that money, then you’re not helping the situation," Nitty said. "We still need that money to go somewhere else. When we asked the police to be defunded, it’s not so the police will keep the money.”
Zamarripa said she was surprised by the lack of cuts in the mayor's plan, and expects pushback when the Milwaukee Common Council starts working on the budget in early October.
“The process is only just beginning, and I think all options are on the table as we continue to move forward.”
Barrett pointed out that if more cuts to staff were made, the city would be contractually obligated to cut the most recent 30 hires, which are actually funded by federal dollars, meaning the city would not save any money. Mayor Barrett also continued his call for state lawmakers to allow Milwaukee County to raise its sales tax.