The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors held its first listening session on Tuesday July 11, inviting public input as the board considers implementing the 0.375% sales tax increase enabled by the Wisconsin shared revenue bill.
The meeting started less than an hour after the Milwaukee Common Council approved the city’s increase of sales tax to two percent, with supervisors hearing from local representatives, former colleagues, and residents of the county.
Former chairman of the board Theodore Lipscomb said that while the bill isn’t ideal, it is necessary.
“I’m sure that all of you would write a different version of the bill. We all would. All of our efforts were for a different version,” he said. “But the version in front of you is the one that you have. That’s the tool – you have to save yourselves. And you have to save all of us, the taxpayers who want services.”
Those services, including Milwaukee County Parks and the Milwaukee County Transit System, were a theme in residents’ testimony. Representative Evan Goyke, who lives in Milwaukee, said he wants to continue to take his young son to use the parks.
A large contingent inside Room 203-R at the Milwaukee County Courthouse came in support of MCTS, holding up signs in favor of the bus system. Executive director of the transit advocacy group MobiliSE Dave Steele spoke about the necessity of the bus for many residents.
“Tens of thousands of our residents, our neighbors, ride the bus every day to get to work,” Steele said.
Terri King is one of those neighbors, who took the microphone to tell supervisors how essential the bus is to her life.
“Without Milwaukee County Transit, I will literally starve to death,” she said.
King uses the bus to get to grocery stores and doctors appointments, adding that the stores close to her house have closed over the years, leaving her unable to walk to get food as she enters her 60s.
These are the services that the county is hoping to avoid cuts to by implementing the sales tax. While the majority of speakers, including representatives from Visit Milwaukee and other local organizations, are in favor of the tax, there is still some resistance from residents. Ron Jansen is against the tax because its regressive nature will effect low-income residents the most – and he is distrustful of the process.
“The issue does not go to a vote by those people who this will most impact, but to a room of people who are not necessarily swayed by public testimony,” he said.
The Board of Supervisors is inviting further public testimony – with multiple town hall meetings scheduled:
- Thursday, July 13th at 5:30 PM at the Mitchell Park Domes
- Saturday, July 15th at 11:30 AM at the Zablocki Library
- Tuesday, July 18th at 5:30 PM at the Washington Park Senior Center
- Tuesday, July 18th from 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM at the Greendale Safety Center
- Saturday, July 22nd from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM at the Greenfield Public Library
The earliest the board could vote on the tax is their meeting on July 27th. No vote has been scheduled.
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