Milwaukee County sales tax wins key approvals; full board board set for July 27

The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors Committee on Personnel and the Committee on Finance voted Monday to recommend the adoption of a resolution, authored by Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson, which would enact an additional 0.4% county sales and use tax, effective January 1, 2024. 

The resolution will now go to the full County Board at its meeting of July 27 at 9:30 am.

The approval comes a week after the City of Milwaukee approved a 2% sales tax of its own.

The county already collects a 0.5% sales tax, in addition to the 5% state sales tax. If approved, the increase would bring sales tax in Milwaukee County to 5.9%, and 7.9% in the city of Milwaukee. This tax increase is projected to generate over $82.1 million in revenue for the county, providing resources to fund essential programs and services. 

The approved legislation was made possible by the enactment of 2023 Wisconsin Act 12, which was adopted by the Wisconsin State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Tony Evers. It provided increased state funding for local governments and authorized Milwaukee County to enact local sales taxes. 

“In order to avert devastating cuts to critical services like housing, human services, senior supports, transit routes, public safety, and parks and recreational facilities, it is necessary that we take action on the only option currently available that will provide the necessary revenue to prevent us from falling off a fiscal cliff.” Board Chair Marcelia Nicholson said in a statement. “I’d like to thank both the Committee on Personnel, and the Committee on Finance for recommending for adoption this generational legislation after years of community engagement in Milwaukee, advocacy in Madison, and incredibly difficult cuts made to County departments.”    

This joint meeting took place following the Tuesday, July 11, 2023, meeting of the Milwaukee County Board Committee of the Whole, where Supervisors met to hear testimony from County departments and held a public hearing on this issue. 

The legislation also includes provisions to enroll new hires in the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) after December 31, 2024, and close the Employees’ Retirement System of the County of Milwaukee (ERS) to new hires.

“We have worked diligently to find solutions to our fiscal challenges, and the transition to the Wisconsin Retirement System is a significant step in the right direction,”  Supervisor Willie Johnson said in a statement. “By embracing this change, we are demonstrating our commitment to the retirement security of our employees while managing costs effectively. Protecting the well-being of our workforce is of the utmost importance. This legislation does just that.”