November 26, 2014

Changes to residency rule fall short for Milwaukee

Milwaukee’s mayor is vowing to continue fighting a plan to lift residency requirements for municipal and county employees.

The provision in the state budget bars municipalities from requiring public employees to live in the community they serve. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says lawmakers should stay out of what’s largely an ongoing debate between the city and its police and fire unions over pension payments.

A court ruling is currently stopping the city from requiring those workers to contribute to their pensions. Barrett says the city has made it “very clear to the Legislature that we would be willing to consider granting waivers for residency requirements if individuals who work for the city of Milwaukee, and then move out of the city of Milwaukee, would pay towards their pensions.”

As the proposal stands now though, Barrett says those workers will no longer even be contributing to their pensions through property tax payments if they can move outside of the city, which puts an extra burden on Milwaukee’s finances. About 69 percent of the city’s future pension obligations are for police officers and fire fighters.

The Joint Finance Committee has updated the proposal to require police, fire, and emergency personnel to live within 15 miles of the area they serve. However, Barrett says that still does not address their concerns about lost tax revenues from workers moving out.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:08)