Last Fall, Walker's staff estimated that hiring a private security firm to protect the County Courthouse would save Milwaukee County $750,000 a year. However, this year's savings was in the neighborhood of $400,000. This elicited a sharp rebuke from certain County Supervisors that would reject any form of privatization, let alone one that doesn't meet its cost-saving goal.
In March, Walker used his "emergency budget authority" to fire 27 courthouse security guards in exchange for hiring a private security firm. Walker's rationale was that a private firm can do the same job for a reduced cost, which would relieve cash-strapped taxpayers from additional financial burdens.
Walker's fiscal decisions are not without consequence. Walker's staff recently reported that they are expecting a near $9 million surplus in the county budget. This is a significant turnaround from earlier projections of a near $15 million budget deficit. The turnaround was credited to "corrective budgetary actions" like the 3% reduction in spending across county departments, imposed furlough days and a wage freezes for county workers, and the reorganization of the House of Corrections. Also, savings that came from "non-corrective budgetary actions" that include a 10% decline in health care costs in 2009 and an increase in investment income.
In sum, County Executive Scott Walker knows how to produce a budgetary surplus even during the "Great Recession". And this isn't a first for Walker either. While neighboring counties registered budget deficits, Walker furnished a $7 million surplus in 2007 and a $4 million surplus in 2008.
But County Supervisors continue to oppose his efforts to reduce government costs. They opposed him when he tried to privatize the County Zoo. They opposed him when he privatized the housekeeping of the County Courthouse. And they opposed him when he privatized the security staff of the County Courthouse. In fact, they oppose him when he wants to implement spending cuts, and they oppose him when he agrees not to implement spending cuts. It's not easy being a fiscal conservative in the Milwaukee metropolitan area. In fact, Walker is the first of his kind; he is the first Republican County Executive in entire history of Milwaukee.
In recent news, a supervisor from the private security firm was removed after Walker learned he had several misdemeanor convictions on his record. County Supervisor Johnny Thomas used a press release to take a shot at Walker accusing him of not tightening up the standards on security guards. He railed against Walker for the private firm's failure to do proper background checks on new hires.
Chad Wegener, a former Police Chief of the Manawa Police Department and a Supervisor for Wackenhut, had five misdemeanors in 2004 including accusations of sexual overtures to male subordinates. When Walker learned about it, Wegener was promptly removed. And although this provided political fodder for County Supervisors, they need to understand that state law does not allow employers to discriminate against people with undesirable records, except in limited cases of course.