, , ,

Report: Milwaukee Financial Situation Improved Since Recession, But Challenges Remain

Lack Of Revenue Options Have The City In a Bind, Official Says

Tom Henrich (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Milwaukee’s financial situation has improved since the Great Recession, but the city still faces hurdles in increasing revenue to cover costs such as garbage pick up, employee health care and law enforcement, according to a recently published report from the Public Policy Forum.

Rob Henken, the Forum’s president, said there are a lack of choices to overcome the financial problems plaguing the city.

“In Wisconsin, we’ve set up a scenario where there’s great dependence on intergovernmental revenue,” Henken said. “But that’s flat, and there are very few other revenue options.”

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Henken said other big cities across the country have some type of local sales or income tax to help supplement property tax and state and federal aid.

Milwaukee’s Budget and Management Director, Mark Nicolini, said new local taxes require state approval, noting most of Milwaukee’s operating budget comes from property taxes and state funds. But Since 2003, the amount of money the city received through state channels has decreased by about $22 million. He said drops in funding make it hard to maintain and improve law enforcement numbers.

“Any additional police strength would have to be funded, really, through the property tax levy,” Nicolini said. “At this point, it would really be a matter of reducing some other department in order to increase police strength.”

Nicolini said the city has no other revenue options and they are close to the peak of being able to cover costs for city services through resident fees.