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Milwaukee city leaders eying 15% pay hike for themselves

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(The Center Square) – Less than two weeks after Milwaukee’s new sales tax took effect, city leaders are looking to spend some of that money on pay raises for themselves.

A city council committee approved a 15% pay raise for the mayor, city council members and top city workers like Milwaukee’s police and fire chiefs.

“The approval of these recommendations helps us move past being a stepping stone for other opportunities and instead a choice destination,” Milwaukee Employee Relations Director Harper Donahue IV told city council members.

The pay raises would bump Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson’s salary to more than $169,000 a year. The raises would also increase the base pay for city council members to more than $84,000 a year.

Milwaukee’s police and fire chiefs would see their salaries jump to a little less than $200,000 a year, while the city’s public works boss would make more than $208,000.

The city estimates the raises will cost $1.8 million for the rest of 2024, and at least $2.8 million each year going forward. There is a provision in the pay raise proposal that would guarantee elected officials a 3% raise each year, starting next year, unless frontline city workers get a smaller raise.

Alderman Michael Murphy said city leaders have been making the same salary for the past 15 years.

“I do believe there should be an increase for elected officials. I don’t believe the number 15 is appropriate,” he said.

Alderman Scott Spiker said Milwaukee’s mayor didn’t mention anything about the pay raises when he pitched a new 2% sales tax for the city.

“You just asked for a sales tax and now you’re going to increase salaries for not just electeds but the folks who are most well compensated,” Spiker added.

A spokesman for Milwaukee’s mayor said he supports the raises, as does city council President Jose Perez.

“I want the city to be competitive, I don’t want to lose talent to other municipalities and even to the private sector, but with any increase I think it’s only natural, it’s pertinent for us to also increase accountability and fix the systems that are in place that prohibit the best service for our constituents,” he said.

The pay raise proposal now goes to the full city council for a vote.

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