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Should It Stay or Should It Go?: Exploring the potential for structural reform in Milwaukee County government

January 22, 2010

Milwaukee County government faces immediate and substantial fiscal and programmatic challenges. The county's structural deficit -- defined as the gap between expenditure needs and anticipated revenues -- is projected to grow from $48 million in 2011 to more than $106 million by 2014, despite several successive years of significant expenditure and staff reductions and anticipation of significant wage and benefit concessions in 2010. This projection is the clearest indication yet that the county's finances are crumbling and that valued services in areas like parks, transit, mental health and public safety face severe degradation without prompt and concerted action. This action could take any of several forms, including the complete elimination of Milwaukee County government. This report, commissioned by the Greater Milwaukee Committee, provides detailed analysis and perspective on the complex issues surrounding that option, as well as other potential structural changes.

City of Milwaukee's Fiscal Condition: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

August 28, 2009

This report presents an analysis of the fiscal condition of the City of Milwaukee government, applying a professional financial evaluation system of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA). The city conducted this type of analysis internally during the 1990s, but it has done nothing similar this decade. In March 2009, the Forum released an evaluation of the finances of Milwaukee County also using the ICMA methodology. Milwaukee's city government currently is experiencing serious financial difficulties. The recession hit Milwaukee hard, as it has the region and state, and the negative impact on Milwaukee's businesses and property values has had financial repercussions on city coffers. In addition, the massive decline in stock prices has devalued pension investments. While ranked the second most secure public pension fund in the nation prior to the economic downturn, Milwaukee's pension fund now has an unfunded liability of more than $700 million.