Thursday, June 28, 2012

The role and impact of Milwaukee’s Protective Payee program

Since 2001, three Milwaukee nonprofit agencies have collaborated on a program that provides financial oversight, budget counseling, and supportive case management to more than 200 homeless adults with disabilities each year. A new Forum report released this morning provides an assessment of that program – known as the Protective Payee program – within the context of Milwaukee County’s effort to redesign its adult mental health system.

In addition to describing the Protective Payee program’s design and scope, analyzing its impacts on client housing and health outcomes, and assessing the program’s financing, we provide an in-depth examination of how the program fits into the broader spectrum of case management services available in Milwaukee County for the homeless and persons with mental illness. This analysis offers policymakers a view of how the overall “system” functions, revealing potential opportunities to improve effectiveness and efficiency and assisting in deliberations on the appropriate continuum of case management-type services moving forward.

Key observations emerging from this analysis include the following:

  • The Protective Payee program appears to be effective in stabilizing housing for homeless individuals with disabilities. While it is not possible to conclusively determine that the program could be applied successfully to other populations in Milwaukee County in need of case management services, it does suggest an expanded program or similar programs based on the Protective Payee model could be an effective option for the same clientele in other Wisconsin counties.
  • Improved coordination between local case management programs could make it possible to increase enrollment in the Protective Payee program and Milwaukee County’s Shelter Plus Care program, potentially alleviating some demand on the County’s Behavioral Health Division (BHD) and serving more clients overall. In order to do so, Milwaukee County and the Protective Payee agencies would need to seek additional funding from HUD or philanthropic sources, or the County would have to identify additional local resources. While the prospect of additional HUD funding may be unlikely, the County may determine that use of additional local resources to provide stable housing for additional BHD clients would pay off in the form of reduced inpatient and crisis care costs.
  • In light of concerns that have been raised regarding the limited capacity and flexibility of BHD’s two case management programs (Targeted Case Management and Community Support Program), enhancing capacity at the lower-intensity end of the service spectrum may be a worthwhile strategy to open up space for those in need and better coordinate provision of the most intensive services. A key recommendation of a 2010 report authored by a national consultant and the Forum was to explore providing case management services to a larger population by developing a multi-layered continuum of case management care that is flexible and responsive, moving people to higher and lower levels of care over time, as appropriate. A consistent review of client needs for all case management program clients, along with consideration by BHD of possible expanded partnerships with community agencies to make greater use of lower-intensity support services and case management programs, could help to ensure that individuals are being served by the most appropriate program and that space is available in the County’s highly-intensive CSP program for those with thegreatest needs.
  • Positive and stable relationships between clients and case managers are crucial to achieving the primary goal of any case management program: improved client well-being. Local mental health professionals stress the importance of developing and maintaining constructive, stable relationships between clients and case managers regardless of the intensity of support being provided. Improved coordination between programs could also allow those relationships to be maintained, as desired by the client, even if he or she shifts between programs.
We hope that this analysis will assist policymakers in determining the appropriate role for various case management service models in Milwaukee County’s changing mental health system. In addition, we urge BHD and its mental health redesign task force to use this information to consider whether the services analyzed in this report collectively function to provide appropriate levels of community-based services that meet the varied needs of individuals who are seeking them, and/or whether there may be ways to more effectively deploy existing and additional mental health and homelessness prevention resources to establish an even better continuum of care.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Property tax levies decline for the first time in over a decade

The aggregate gross tax levy for southeast Wisconsin totaled $3.9 billion for 2012, a decrease of 0.3% over the previous year and the first decrease since at least 2000. Until this year’s slight decrease, the aggregate levy increased annually, although the rate of increase in the previous four years had been steadily slowing.

This finding highlights the Forum’s 2012 analysis of property values and property taxes within the seven-county southeast Wisconsin region, which was released today on our website.  The report’s primary objective is to measure trends in property values – one of the region’s most critical indicators of economic health – and examine how those trends impact the capacity of local governments and school districts to bring in the levy revenues required to deliver essential public services. 

The report finds that this relationship has been impacted significantly by the stringent limitations on property tax increases included in the most recent state budget.  The ability of municipalities and counties to increase their levies was generally capped at the percentage increase in net new construction, while new school district revenue caps required a 5.5% reduction in combined levies and state aids for 2012.

Because school districts account for the largest percentage of the aggregate tax levy in southeast Wisconsin at 45%, school district levies tend to drive overall changes to regional levies. The aggregate school district tax levy for southeast Wisconsin steadily increased from 2007 to 2011, before decreasing 1.2% in 2012. Also, for the first time since 2008, more municipalities (83) saw their corresponding school district tax rate decrease than increase.

This year’s report also analyzes property values, with specific consideration of multi-year trends. Total property values in southeast Wisconsin decreased 2.4% from 2010 to 2011 – the third consecutive year with a decrease, but a smaller decrease than the previous year.  Aggregate property values in every county in southeast Wisconsin decreased from 2010 to 2011 for the second year in a row.  These declining values also contribute to lower levies. 

Not surprisingly, property tax rates in southeast Wisconsin continued their upward trend in 2012.  The aggregate gross tax rate in the region increased $0.46 per $1,000 of property value, marking the fifth consecutive annual increase, though the rate of growth has slowed.  The aggregate gross tax rate in southeast Wisconsin is now $22.04 per $1,000 of assessed value. Tax rates typically can be expected to increase during a time of property value decrease, even under strict levy limits, as the drop in value requires a tax rate hike just to maintain a stable tax levy.

This year’s report was sponsored by Robert W. Baird & Co. To download the report, click here.

Friday, June 1, 2012

2012 Salute winners demonstrate innovation and efficiency

Later this month, the Public Policy Forum will hold its 20th annual Salute to Local Government awards breakfast, which recognizes outstanding performance by governments, school districts and individual local government officials.  The 2012 winners were announced today, and they include an impressive mix of projects and individuals who demonstrate the meaning of good government.

This year's group winners include a county treasurer's office that was able to eliminate two full-time staff positions by implementing a series of business process improvements; a city government that leveraged a federal homeland security grant into a comprehensive upgrade of its citywide information technology infrastructure; a set of Milwaukee County cities and villages that combined their public safety dispatch services; and a city library and economic development department that joined forces with a neighborhood organization and private developer to create a shining new housing and library complex.

On the individual side, winners include one of our region's most vibrant and energetic county department heads, as well as an individual who lost his recent re-election bid, but who will always be remembered for his efforts to promote intergovernmental cooperation and civility in government.

If there is a theme threading its way throughout each of this year's winners - as well as the near-record 40 nominations we received - it's that there is no shortage of innovation and ingenuity in southeast Wisconsin's local governments and school districts. It's nice to be able to celebrate those qualities - even if just for one day - and to recognize that despite our differences on issues pertaining to the size and role of government, each of us has an interest in celebrating outstanding performance by the people who work there.

The Salute breakfast will be held on Tuesday, June 19, at 7:30 AM at the Italian Conference Center in Milwaukee.  Click here to sign up and here for the press release with details on the full list of 2012 winners.