The Fighting 14th!

The official blog of Milwaukee County Supervisor Jason Haas

Archive for the tag “Finance & Audit Committee”

Busy week ahead: 3 committee meetings, 2 community meetings

This week will be rather busy.  The Parks, Energy and Environment Committee meets on Tuesday, and my “SuperPass” resolutionis on deck that day. Its purpose is to form “a Workgroup to explore a Super Pass for various park, recreation and culture facilities with the purchase of one card.”  I have often tried to wrap my brain around the myriad admissions and membership policies of the many County Attractions ad cultural institutions, but it proved to be a bit above my pay grade. The groups’ heads together under the auspices of the chairman of VISIT Milwaukee, whom I know has a hunch on how to make something work.

Still on Parks Committee, the Quarterly Financial Update from the Milwaukee Public Museum may prove quite interesting. Also, the committee will approve and adopt the Parks Department’s 5-year Capital Development Plan, which hopes to get some of the $250 million of deferred maintenance taken care of.

Time Warner Cable is seeking a “limited term easement to  to allow for the placement of a new fiber optic conduit packet under park property to better serve the public.” This is at Lake Park, in particular. We’ll see what the Friends of Lake Park think o that proposal.

Finally, there is a resolution “authorizing the Public Art Program and Committee to be placed on an official hiatus to last no longer than the duration of 2012, while the County Executive along with the Department of Administrative Services provide reports on how to successfully locate an adequate funding source that will allow for the program’s reactivation and continuity, as outlined in County Board policy.”

The above is all Parks Committee stuff.  Then on Thursday is the  Finance and Audit Committee meeting, And here’s the agenda (PDF). Following that on Friday is the Personnel Committee meeting, some of the content from that meeting will overlap with the  Finance and Audit—hence our interest in combining the two committees.

Back to Monday. I had a meeting earlier today with Chris Linberg, former Executive Manager of Technology Services for MillerCoors, now the Milwaukee County Information Management Director.  Chris has made a big jump from MillerCoors to the County, and I’m very glad he’s on board. With him, we will be able to start moving into the 21st century. Like me, he was struck by the amount of drift that has occurred in the County over the past many years. A lot of things are stuck in the past, simply because that’s the way they’ve always been done. With Chris’s help, we will change that for the better.

This afternoon we have a meeting at General Mitchell International Airport concerning the 128th Air Refueling Wing. The County Board has approved the concept of keeping the 128th here.  The meeting is with local businesses who may be affected if and when the federal government and Air Force decide to keep the 128th here and wish to expand it.

Wednesday has the Airport Gateway Business Improvement District’s annual meeting, and a County Dept. of Transportation lunch event. On Thursday we have the Army Corps of Engineers open house on the KK River rehabilitation, which runs from 4-7PM at the Jackson Park Boathouse, 3500 W. Forest Home Ave, Milwaukee.

Three committee meetings. Lots of phone calls and other events. Not too shabby.

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Proposed merging of Finance & Audit, Personnel committees

The first legislative proposal from Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic has been to merge two of our standing committees, the Finance and Audit committee, and the Personnel committee. In a conversation that I had with the chairwoman yesterday, she reports having a total of 13 co-sponsors for the resolution, which includes me. Let’s take a moment to look at the described duties of the committees.

Personnel: Employee relations, including collective bargaining, reclassification, compensation and conditions of employment of County personnel and officers are handled by this Committee. Members set policy for the Civil Service Commission and administer the county Employee Merit Award program.

In short, the committee sets employee and employment policies, including employee contracts and collective bargaining. If you ever want to see how a government really works from the inside, sit in on a personnel committee meeting. Once your head stops spinning at the facts and details being debated, you’ll have a much better understanding of how it works.

Finance and Audit: County budget matters, taxation and insurance are all reviewed by this Committee. Reports of the Department of Audit are discussed on a regular basis. Audit reports ensure other county departments implement program improvements and cost-saving recommendations of the County Board. This process provides the best service at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer. In short, Finance Committee is in charge of crafting the budget after it comes down from the County Executive’s office. That’s pretty important, as Milwaukee County is a $1.2 billion entity. (Would you want a few part-time people to set the budget for the $1.2 billion corporation of which you are a direct owner?)

Now, here’s a link to the proposed legislation: Link (PDF). If you want to see the fiscal note for the resolution: Link (PDF). (There’s no fiscal impact as a result of this bill.)

On it, I noticed that Supervisors Cullen, Johnson, Borkowski, Broderick, Jursik, Dimitrijevic, Romo West, Haas, Lipscomb, Schmitt, Taylor, Sanfelippo, Harris and Alexander are all listed as co-sponsors. Supervisors David Cullen and Willie Johnson have been named as chairs of the Personnel Committee and Finance Committee, which are currently separate committees. They would be co-chairs of the, larger joint committee.

Given that it has 13 co-sponsors, and we now have just 18 supervisors, the resolution’s passage is all but assured.

What would be the effects of this resolution?

It is argued that the combining of the two committees would streamline the county legislative process. What happened very frequently was that resolutions that came to the personnel committee would also have to go to the finance committee, as their effects and purpose were intertwined. In the last (2008-2012) county board cycle, the Finance Committee met prior to Personnel Committee, meaning that even if Personnel rejected a resolution, if it had passed Finance, its passage by a majority of the whole board was virtually assured. This was in spite of the fact that Lee Holloway had stacked Personnel with hard-line conservatives, which had the effect of hurting labor contracts.

Now, we will have both committees in one group.  The meetings are likely to run much longer than before, as we will have to deal with arguably the most important elements of a government: its money and its staff. Hopefully, the gain in “efficiency” will not prevent good work from being done.

Also, let’s look at the current memberships of the two committees. I have italicized the duplicates:

Finance & Audit: Willie Johnson, Jr., Chair; David Cullen, Vice-Chair; Jim “Luigi” Schmitt; Peggy Romo West; Patricia Jursik; Jason Haas; Deanna Alexander

Personnel: David Cullen, Chair; Willie Johnson, Jr., Vice-Chair; Jim “Luigi” SchmittPatricia Jursik; Theodore Lipscomb, Sr.; Jason Haas; Russell Stamper II

The final, combined committee would have nine members:

Johnson, Cullen (co-chairs); Schmitt; Romo West; Jursik; Lipscomb; Haas; Alexander; Stamper

In thinking about the resolution, I can’t see many arguments against its passage. Having long meetings is not something a person in government legislation should be afraid of. Given the importance of these matters, it would be unadvisable for a person who is interested in getting out of there in a hurry to participate in the first place, or to try and stall it. Given the makeup of the proposed committee, I don’t see that happening.

What are your thoughts?

Live blogging Oct. 26 2011 Milwaukee County budget hearing

1:20PM: Amendment 1C0005 was laid over, unanimous vote (6-0).

1:52PM: Patty Yunk, Director of Public Policy at AFSCME DC 48, is testifying on the proposed changes and greatly increased premium contributions to employee and retiree health insurance coverage.

2:10PM: A county retiree is now testifying on the same topic.

2:14PM: Another county retiree is now testifying on the topic. She is concerned about the effects on older retirees. A Medicare co-pay is being proposed as part of this. This would be “to ship us out to sea and throw us overboard without a life jacket.”

2:18PM: Now on budget for Land Sales, budget section 1933. (PDF; you will need to look through the non-departmental revenue document for section 1933.)

2:23PM: DAS Procurement Budget, and amendments 1A027, 1A028, 1A030.

Amendment 1A027 (Harris, Thomas, Biddle, Dimitrijevic; De Bruin is chairing this amendment), which would create a way to get free birth certificates. This is in response to the voter ID law. In order to get a free ID to vote with, a person must present a birth certificate. The state has been totally uncooperative, and would not allow the county to waive the birth certificate fee. Rather than raise the tax levy, this would move money from DAS-Procurement. Supervisor Mayo moved approval. Sup. Johnson has asked to become a co-sponsor. Sup. Romo West emphasized “what a huge issue” this will be, as many central city residents to do not have a birth certificate.

Sup. Schmitt questioned how many birth certificates will be acquired. Sup. Harris is sharing statistics on the large numbers of citizens who do not have identification — nearly half of all minority populations. She added that this will pay for 5,000 birth certificates. Schmitt thinks the $100,000 figure is too high. He will support the next amendment that is for only $50,000. Sup. Jursik is commenting on the number of elderly voters who are very unhappy with the need to have ID just to vote. Also, will this be in effect if the League of Women Voters lawsuit against the voter ID law succeeds? Harris replied, if it succeeds, we’ll repeal this, but I don’t want to wait for that to be decided. Harris thinks it needs to be implemented now.

John La Fave, County Register of Deeds, is now speaking in support of the amendment. He noted that when a person comes seeking their birth record, they need to bring an ID. They do have procedures to deal with this (e.g. the person doesn’t need a free copy of their birth certificate.) People will still need to follow through on the state requirements to obtain a birth certificate.

Citizen testimony: Students and community members spoke in favor of the amendment. Describing people from Milwaukee who never had ID,  birth certificate.

[At this point I was informed that my child’s daycare had called, and that he has vomited. I need to go get him now.]

Motion to approve passed 5-1 (Schmitt)

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