(The Center Square) – Taxes are going up in Milwaukee.
The city’s Common Council on Tuesday approved a new 2% sales tax that is expected to bring-in $194 million next year.
Mayor Cavalier Johnson said the new sales tax is necessary to avoid a fiscal calamity and stave-off severe budget cuts.
“In taking this action, the Council has protected Milwaukee and its residents from unimaginable cuts to library and public safety services,” Johnson said after the vote. “We have reached a turning point in the history of Milwaukee’s municipal finances. This is certainly the most significant change in how city services are funded in more than a century.”
The sales tax will add 2% to most sales in the city of Milwaukee. Wisconsin currently charges a 5% sales tax, and Milwaukee County is considering a 0.4% increase to its 0.5% sales tax.
If county supervisors follow the city’s lead, the increases mean people in the city of Milwaukee will be paying 7.9% in sales taxes.
“With the new revenue, Milwaukee will be positioned to improve emergency service response times. We will also be able to continue the innovative work of the Milwaukee Public Library,” Johnson added.
The state of Wisconsin estimates the new Milwaukee sales tax will bring-in $16 million per-month.
But not everyone on Milwaukee’s Common Council is happy about the new tax.
Three aldermen, Andrea Pratt, Mark Chambers Jr. and Milele Coggs voted against the sales tax.
“I do not want to see us fail,” Pratt said during Tuesday’s meeting. “I also do not want to save a city by rejecting citizens.”
Most of the voters who turned out to Milwaukee’s public hearings on the sales tax oppose the idea as well.
They told aldermen they either opposed the increase in prices, or resented the spending restrictions imposed on Milwaukee by state lawmakers.
Those spending restrictions earmark the sales tax money for police, fire, roads, and other key needs. The restrictions stop Milwaukee from spending sales tax money on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, as well as the city’s streetcar ‘The Hop.’
Mayor Johnson says he expects to sign the sales tax ordinance “in the coming days.”
The sales take could take effect as soon as January 1, 2024.