Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance
Press Release

Municipal Spending Declines

WISTAX Study Analyzes Post Act 10 Municipal Finances

By - Sep 3rd, 2014 12:17 pm

MADISON—The impact of the benefit and bargaining changes in 2011 Act 10 on city and village finances is apparent in recently released 2012 municipal spending data.  After rising an average of 2.2% per year during 2006-11, net operating spending, a broad measure of municipal spending that excludes debt service and capital expenditures, fell 3.0% in 2012 to an average of $823 per capita in 244 of Wisconsin’s most populous municipalities.  These figures are from MunicipalFacts14, an exclusive annual study just released by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX).WISTAX is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization devoted to public policy research and citizen education.

A second measure of municipal spending features only the four largest categories of municipal spending: general government, street maintenance, police, and fire-ambulance expenditures. Combined, expenditures in these four basic service areas fell 1.7% in 2012 to $552 per capita.

Among these basic categories, per capita spending in general government registered the only increase, rising just 0.2%.  Despite the increase, general government spending per capita was at its 2008 level ($81).  Net expenditures for police protection, accounting for over 40% of municipal spending, fell 0.1% to $227 per person in 2012, its only decline in the past five years.  Net fire-ambulance spending, which accounts for roughly one-quarter of expenditures, fell 0.5% in 2012 to $137 per capita.  Generally, firefighters and police officers were exempt from 2011 Act 10, though non-union police or firefighters were required to contribute to their retirement. Finally, after a 3.8% increase in 2011, street maintenance expenditures dropped 7.5% in 2012 to $107 per person.

On the revenue side of the ledger, shared revenues (state income, sales, and excise taxes shared with local governments) dropped 6.7% from $136 per capita in 2011 to $127 per capita in 2012.  Of the 244 municipalities studied, shared revenues declined in 233.  Additionally, per capita debt rose 0.6% from $1,538 in 2011 to $1,548 per capita in 2012.  Debt grew an average of 2.0% per year during 2008-12.

Closer to home, spending on municipal operations in Milwaukee was $1,181 per capita, a  1.6% change from 2011 vs. the 3.0% decline among the municipalities studied by WISTAX.  In 2012, average law enforcement spending was $227 per resident, while police spending in Milwaukee was $420. Street maintenance spending totaled $131 per capita, compared to $107 elsewhere.  While net fire and ambulance expenditures averaged $137 statewide, they averaged $181 per person in Milwaukee.

MunicipalFacts14 is the best resource for comparing municipal finances in Wisconsin’s 244 cities and villages with populations between 2,000 and 150,000 (excluding Milwaukee and Madison).  In addition to spending, the 112-page book provides financial information on property taxes, property values, and debt.  MunicipalFacts14 groups municipalities by population, making it easy to compare taxes and spending in similar-sized cities and villages.

In addition to financial information, MunicipalFacts14 also has a wealth of demographic detail.  The publication allows citizens to compare municipalities by income, state income taxes, and population.  Plus, each community’s property tax base is broken down by class:  residential, commercial, manufacturing, and other types.

MunicipalFacts14 was researched and printed with support from Walmart and Ehlers, an independent financial advisory firm.  For more information or to purchase a copy of MunicipalFacts14, available for $19.95 (plus tax and shipping), visit www.wistax.org, email wistax@wistax.org, call 608.241.9789, or write WISTAX at 401 North Lawn Avenue, Madison, WI 53704-5033.  Customized reports showing information for any 10 municipalities can also be ordered for $14.95 (plus tax and shipping).

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