It looks to me like Milwaukee County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic is scared silly over the fact that she may have to get a real job, like the rest of us. Afterall, having a seat at the public trough is the only life she has ever known. My sources inside the courthouse say that it is like WWIII in there. This issue is driving the career politicians up a tree. Take a look at this article from the Journal Sentinel and judge for yourself. – Jerry B
Draft legislation targeting Milwaukee County supervisors’ pay and the County Board’s budget would weaken the board and boost the power of County Executive Chris Abele, County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic said Monday.
That would upset the checks and balances intended to apply to the county’s legislative and executive branches, she said in a meeting with Journal Sentinel reporters and editors.
Nonsense, Abele said in an interview. The board has gradually usurped more and more turf and staff over the past several decades, despite a paucity of real duties sanctioned by state law, Abele countered.
“The county now is a lot smaller and less complex than it was” decades ago, with about one-third as many employees as the county had at its peak in the 1970s, Abele said. The county work force now stands at about 4,400.
“What exactly does anybody think we are going to lose at a part-time, $15,000-a-year board?” he said. Supervisors set policy, but there isn’t much discretion in what counties do, Abele said.
Dimitrijevic blasted a referendum provision on cutting salaries of supervisors by 70% to $15,000 as meaningless because she said a separate part of the same draft bill also would effectively cut the County Board’s budget to zero.
“That is essentially an elimination of the Milwaukee County legislative branch because how would we function? We’d almost be voluntary,” Dimitrijevic said.
She was referring to part of the legislation that would limit the County Board’s own budget to 0.4% of the county’s overall tax levy, or $1.1 million. The $1.1 million under the county’s longtime budgeting practices would all have to go toward the board’s share of retiree costs, leaving nothing for supervisor or staff salaries, she said.
State Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Allis), the bill’s sponsor, has said it was not his intention to wipe out the board’s budget entirely. He says the county could find some way to change how it accounts for retiree benefits so the $1.1 million could be used for the supervisors and staff.
The current County Board budget is $6.5 million, which includes salaries for supervisors and 38 staff, including lobbyists, policy analysts and committee clerks.
Even if the board had $1.1 million, that wouldn’t be enough for supervisors to “do our legislative oversight,” Dimitrijevic said.
County government was never intended to be a mirror of state or federal government, with legislators squaring off against a governor or president, Abele said. The elected county comptroller, approved by the Legislature last year, provided an effective independent financial counterbalance to the county executive, Abele said.
Sanfelippo and other backers of the legislation say a part-time board would generate needed savings and restore a healthier balance between the roles and duties of the county executive and County Board. Board critics, including Abele, have said the board has tried micromanage county operations rather than sticking to a policymaking role.
Dimitrijevic said the drastic cut in the County Board’s budget, which would be done directly and not be subject to a referendum, undercuts a stated goal of the bill’s sponsors – to let voters decide the issue of whether supervisors should be switched to part-time.
“What’s really going on here? Is this really talking about county reform or is there something more going on here?” Dimitrijevic said. She said Sanfelippo’s stated intention of introducing a companion bill that would clarify the roles and responsibilities of the county executive and County Board made her question his motives.
“What’s really going in here is a reduction of checks and balances and a consolidation of power,” Dimitrijevic said.
She called for a more deliberate review of county government with an eye toward finding efficiencies rather than rushing to pass Sanfelippo’s state legislation. Dimitrijevic said she’ll convene a task force this year to study ways to improve services and share them between municipalities.
Some potential areas where the county could save money through consolidation include health insurance, purchasing, information technology and public safety, she said.