Milwaukee pension crisis, state aid sought with possible layoffs

The city of Milwaukee is facing a pension crisis as its payments are expected to increase by $ 74 million in 2023. On Wednesday, October 6, a task force presented the city’s finance and staff options for going forward.

To save $ 74 million, the city could lay off about 1,300 employees, or 24% of the workforce, but no one at city hall wants to do it. Instead, in the face of declining returns on investment, rising public safety costs and more, they’re hoping for help from the Wisconsin legislature.

Four months after Mayor Tom Barrett convened the “Pensions Crisis Task Force” in Milwaukee, President Joe’mar Hooper and members of Barrett’s administration presented the task force’s findings to the Council on Wednesday. Finance and Personnel Committee.

“It’s an issue every Milwaukeean needs to understand and care about at this point,” Hooper said.

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According to them, the city has 12 options to avoid a tax cliff. They include the transition of new employees to the state pension plan, the creation of a new benefit structure for the city pension plan or, at worst, the layoff of 1,300 employees.

“It would be somewhat draconian, and it would really have a significant impact on the quality of life of the citizens of Milwaukee,” said Alderman Michael Murphy.

Murphy chairs the finance and personnel committee. He says the best way forward, included in these 12 options, is to lobby the legislature for help with new sources of revenue, like a sales tax on local options.

“This additional source of income would certainly help us try to solve not only the pension problem, but also the problem of having more police, more essential services,” said Murphy.

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This is something Hooper agrees with so that the city does not lose essential employees in public safety, public works and more.

“We are one of the poorest cities in the country when it comes to income for our residents, so we need all the services we can get,” Hooper said.

This retirement problem has already impacted city services, such as the cuts of 120 sworn police stations and five firefighter units. The city has about 12 months to find a solution before the Milwaukee Common Council determines the 2023 budget.

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