On September 3rd, Scott Walker sent a memo to the members of the County Board of Supervisors informing them that his Department Heads will not be available for the Budget Hearings until the members of the County Board vote on a final version of the budget in November. His rationale was simple. His department heads had already conducted three public sessions in May (of which Walker attended two) when an overview of the County Budget was presented. This overview included historical budget challenges, goals for the 2010 budget, and an explanation of how the budget process generally works. After the presentation, the floor was open for public input and discussion.
Of course, Steve Schultze, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, once again published an article about Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker without including some relevant facts. In his article entitled, "Walker Scolded for Keeping Department Heads Away From Budget Hearings", Schultze left out a relevant fact that public hearings already took place where the County Executive department heads were present. He said,
"Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker has ordered county department heads to stay away from County Board budget hearings, calling them an unproductive use of their time."
Here is how it works. The department heads attend three meetings in May to present the challenges of a county budget and to hear feedback from the public. In June, they submit their budget proposals to Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker. At this point, the content of these budget proposals change many times. When a final proposal is drafted, Walker submits it to the Milwaukee County Board, which decides what parts to edit. They send it back to Scott Walker, who has the power to veto their additions.
This process may go back and forth for a while, but the point is that none of this has happened yet. The Department Heads don't know what's in the final budget proposal because they are still working it out with Scott Walker. So what sense does it make for the department heads to be present at the budget hearings when they had their public sessions in May?
In Walker's letter to the members of the County Board of Supervisors, he said his department heads will be available after September 24th when the budget proposal has been submitted to the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors. At this point, they will be available until a final version of the budget is finished sometime in November.
Currently, the Milwaukee County Board is conducting listening session so they can use the feedback to guide their judgments when they receive a proposal from the County Executive. But it is unnecessary for department heads to attend. In fact, it could be argued that the County Board shouldn't schedule meetings about the budget until a preliminary budget proposal is made. This is not how the process usually works, unless of course, County Board wants to politicize the process. Case in point, Supervisor Elizabeth Coggs politicized the public hearing in Brown Deer by decrying Scott Walker and the Department Heads saying,
"We need to hear from the people, and department heads need to hear from the people,"
Only one problem, they've already heard from the people on May 4th, 6th, and the May 11th when the Department Heads conducted their own public hearings. Coggs didn't bother to mention this fact because politicizing the event is more of a priority to her than telling the truth.
You can also find another report on this issue at Scottforgov.com.