The South Milwaukee Common Council has approved an operating funds referendum question asking taxpayers to increase the tax levy by $616,641 to maintain current paramedic services and hire two additional police officers. The special election will be held on Tuesday, November 7. If approved by voters,homeowners would pay an additional $52 per year for every $100,000 of their home’s valuestarting in 2018 and beyond. See Resolution

Fact Sheet

REFERENDUM QUESTION
The formal resolution requesting permission to exceed the state revenue limit will appear as follows on the November 7 ballot:

Under state law, the increase in the levy of the City of South Milwaukee for the tax to be imposed for the next fiscal year, 2018, is limited to .09%, which results in a levy of $10,774,142. Shall the City of South Milwaukee be allowed to exceed this limit and increase the levy for the next fiscal year, 2018, by a total of 5.73%, which results in a levy of $11,381,095? 


BACKGROUND
As South Milwaukee seeks to maintain its strong public safety services it faces a growing budget gap – as the demand for these services continues to rise, funding from current sources is either stagnant or decreasing.

The City’s current level of paramedic service provided by the fire department has been a major asset for the community, enabling rapid-response for residents facing emergencies and/or medical issues. In order to preserve locally provided paramedic services into the future, the City must take action to secure alternative funding.

  • Over the last 15 years, decreased funding from Milwaukee County and other budget challenges have created an annual shortfall in South Milwaukee’s paramedic services budget. The City has used reserve funds and made other budget cuts to accommodate the shortfall.
  • Starting in 2018 there will no longer be reserve funds available to maintain the current level of paramedic services and county revenue will continue to decline over the next 10 years.

 

The City has also identified a need for additional police officers to deliver on the department’s mission and address growing public safety needs.

  • Over the past 20 years, the South Milwaukee Police Department’s staffing level has decreased, despite a greater demand for officer time due to increases in crime and drug-related incidents including burglaries, thefts and heroin overdoses.
  • South Milwaukee is well below the national average for the number of officers based on population size. In addition, South Milwaukee has fewer officers per person than every other municipality in Milwaukee County, except Greenfield.

 

The City evaluated several funding options to maintain the first-class fire and police services residents have come to expect. The City developed an Assessment of Public Safety Funding Options that provides additional background on the decisions facing local leaders.

As part of the decision-making process, the City solicited feedback via a community-wide survey to determine how best to proceed with future budget decisions.

COMMUNITY SURVEY RESULTS
The common council and city officials received a presentation summarizing survey results on Tuesday, June 20, 2017. In the survey, community residents were asked to provide their opinion on several funding options.

The complete survey results are available below. Highlights from the presentation include:

  • 1,351 residents responded to the survey.
  • 88% of respondents indicated that maintaining the current level of emergency services is important to them and their families.
  • Three-quarters of the respondents encouraged the City to explore additional funding options to maintain the current level of EMS services rather than reducing services to balance the budget.
  • A majority of respondents supported a referendum to increase local property taxes in order to maintain existing fire and emergency medical services and hire two additional police officers.


NEXT STEPS
In the coming weeks, the city will be sharing more about the referendum with residents, through the South Milwaukee website, in mailings and through public meetings.
Additional information will be posted about the referendum as the November 7 election approaches.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Please review the FAQs for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions. This document will continue to be updated as more questions arise in the coming months. Learn more here.

For more information you can send an e-mail to referendum@smwi.org or call (414) 768-8051