Tuesday, October 16, 2007

PPF Analysis of the City of Milwaukee's 2008 Budget

Each year, the Public Policy Forum releases an analysis of the City of Milwaukee's proposed budget. This year's budget brief can be found here.

What follows is the concluding statement from our 2008 budget brief:

"In our analysis of the 2006 proposed budget, we praised the city for its three-year fiscal sustainability plan. The existence of such a plan showed the city's commitment to thinking strategically, planning for the future, and moving away from a focus on yearly budget balancing and toward long-term fiscal solvency. The city has made good progress toward all of its goals; some it has achieved. Throughout the budget, there are signs of the city's attempt to be more strategic in its thinking. A strategic plan toward capital budgeting is being crafted. The city is spending some money in the short term that will save money in the long run in the area of energy efficiency. Changes in the library system are being made as a result of a strategic plan. The fire department is planning on making cuts that may be unpopular but have been extensively studied and shown not to result in less safety. The police department is in the process of doing a number of studies to use its force more efficiently, and has shown progress toward evidence-based policing.

Nevertheless, the budget lacks a comprehensive plan for fiscal stability in the future. The budget is not only a ledger of expenditures and revenues; it is a policy document. As such, it would be stronger if the administration included a more detailed analysis of the successes and failures of its three-year fiscal sustainability plan, as well as a new plan for moving forward. Although the city did identify some issues that need to be addressed in the future to improve fiscal sustainability, a continuation of the original three-year plan would be preferable. This is particularly important because, even though the city has made substantial progress toward the goals set out in 2006, this year's budget makes it abundantly clear that even complete achievement of those goals is not enough to rid the city of its structural deficit."

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