News & Updates | 3rd Quarter 2019

By Therese Schneider

President’s message

The recently announced plan by Milwaukee County municipal, county, and business leaders to push for a voter referendum on a one-cent county sales tax is significant on many fronts. The most obvious is the impact a new 1% sales tax – coupled with property tax relief – would have on taxpayers and the finances of 20 distinct units of government in the county. Almost as significant, however… continue reading

Milwaukee Mayor and County Exec highlight budget challenges at Policy in a Pub

We had a record turnout for our Policy in a Pub at Merriment Social in Milwaukee on Monday, September 23. We previewed both the City of Milwaukee’s and Milwaukee County’s 2020 budgets. Mayor Tom Barrett and County Executive Chris Abele were the featured speakers and highlighted the challenges in their upcoming budgets. Stay tuned for our budget briefs to be released in October!

Registration now open for our Policy in a Pub in Madison!

The Rigby | Madison
October 28, 2019 | 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.

We’re bringing our popular Policy in a Pub event to Madison! City of Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway will be the featured speaker and will provide an update on budget deliberations by city leaders. Join us for appetizers, great policy discussion, and a cash bar. Register here.

State Taxes & Spending

Already this year the Forum has published a brief on the proposed state budget and updates on how – despite concerns of an economic slowdown – the tax and spending plan is expected to draw down state reserves over the next two years. In addition, we’ve published reports examining state taxes on tobacco and vaping products and the state’s borrowing and spending on buildings and other capital projects and on conservation land purchases.

In the coming months, the Forum will look at the state’s national rankings on taxes and spending as well as the first of two state financial statements that are released every year.

Municipal Tool Highlights Growing Emphasis on Data, Interactivity

In July we released the 2019 Municipal DataTool, an interactive way to compare public finances and demographics for all 601 Wisconsin cities and villages.

It includes data on every municipality in Wisconsin, from the village of Big Falls (population 57) to the city of Milwaukee. It followed the February release of our School DataTool, which provided a similar range of data on Wisconsin school districts. Also, last week, we released our Property Values & Taxes DataTool, which lays out a range of economic and taxation data for municipalities and counties across the state.

The new tools highlight the Forum’s 21st-century approach to policy research – which includes making public data accessible through interactive tools that help Wisconsinites better understand their communities.

Our Municipal DataTool and Property Values & Taxes DataTool are generously supported by:

Coming soon… new research!

Innovation DataTool: For nearly a decade, we have tracked the four-county Milwaukee metropolitan area’s performance on a broad range of metrics tied to innovation and economic growth, producing written reports in 2010 and 2017. Now we are updating this research with an interactive online tool that will help business and elected leaders assess the region’s economic strengths, weaknesses, and progress in transitioning to a knowledge-based economy.

Budget Briefs Expand: As we do each fall, we will analyze the proposed budgets for the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County, assessing the impacts for both taxpayers and public services. This year, however, the Forum will also analyze Madison’s proposed budget, examining the finances of the state’s second largest city at a time when its mayor and nearly half its city council are newly elected.

Service Sharing in Jefferson County: Our ongoing work on service sharing will look at ways in which local governments situated between Milwaukee and Madison can collaborate to deliver the best services for residents at the lowest cost. Our report includes a broad scan of areas of potential collaboration that may set the stage for deeper probes into specific functions.

Medical Marijuana Ahead?: Wisconsin leaders from both sides of the aisle have talked in recent months about the possibility of legalizing marijuana for the treatment of some medical conditions. Without taking a side on the issue, we are continuing our research into the tax and regulatory implications of such a move by reviewing state laws around the country, including several of Wisconsin’s neighbors.

Local Government Liabilities: Last year we looked at the hidden retiree health care liabilities that pose a financial challenge for some Wisconsin cities. We’re updating this research to look at the large unfunded obligations held by some of the state’s biggest counties and school districts.

New faces at the Forum

We’re excited to introduce our newest team members. Welcome to the Forum!

Alyssa Doman is our Administrative and Membership Assistant and is based in our Milwaukee office. Before joining the Forum, she worked with several large and small nonprofit organizations as both staff and volunteer. She recently graduated with an M.S. in Nonprofit Management and Leadership at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Joe Krivichi is our 2019-20 Norman N. Gill Fellow and is currently pursuing a master’s in urban planning at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His research will focus on the city of Milwaukee’s role in promoting environmental sustainability, including how Milwaukee’s efforts compare with peer cities nationally.