Updated: Holiday Events List … and There is Still Time for your Lighted Parade Entry!

Bonus event this Saturday. Please consider helping out!
Click here for a PDF listing.
Click here for a PDF listing.

From the South Milwaukee Lions Club …

The South Milwaukee Lions Club invites you (your organization) To the Lighted Christmas Parade. Saturday, November 23, 2019. Parade starts at 6:300 pm. Line up 5:30 pm. to 6:00 pm.   Lineup for Walkers is 15th and Milwaukee Avenue, Moving Vehicles Enter on 13th and Madison Avenue.  Attached is a fly to post or hand out and a map of parking and route. ALL PARTICIPANTS MUST BE LIGHTED TO BE IN PARADE.

REGISTER AT: www.SMlions.org/Parade

Food and Donations will be collected for South Milwaukee Human Concerns during the parade, and at City Hall.

You can pass out candy but not from any moving vehicles.

Parade route: Starts at 15th and Milwaukee Avenues south to 15th & Marion Avenue. If you are interested in being in the parade please RSVP to any Lion Parade Committee Member or myself Jim Shelenske,
Phone 414 651-2221

Old Fashion Christmas Activities at City Hall include: Visit with Santa Claus and Mrs. Santa Clause 1 – 4:00 pm Pictures with Santa $2.00 or $1.00 with Donation of 2 non-perishable food items. Free Hay Rides, Free Candy Cane, Children’s Crafts, Food Available and tree lighting at 4:00 pm.

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Police: South Milwaukee Student Arrested After Allegedly Making “Hit List”

From the South Milwaukee Police Department …

During the morning of Thursday, November 14th, the South Milwaukee Police Department arrested a 15-year-old student at the South Milwaukee High School after school officials became aware of what was interpreted as a “hit list” containing the names of other students. 

The South Milwaukee Police Department fully investigated and determined that there was no credible threat to students or staff.  Contrary to some rumors, the school was never placed on “lockdown.” 

The 15-year-old student is being referred to municipal court for Disorderly Conduct.

There is also coverage on Fox 6, WISN, and TMJ4.

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Check out these South Milwaukee headlines …

And check out 10-year-old Max from South Milwaukee share a weather update on Fox 6, as part of its “Future Forecaster” series.

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Celebrating Heroes: Reflecting on Veterans Day

I had the honor of speaking at yesterday’s Veterans Day ceremony at American Legion Post 27 … but the biggest honor of all was hearing the remarks of South Milwaukee Police Department Lt. Jason Walker.

Lt. Walker is a major in the Wisconsin Army National Guard and delivered some powerful remarks in front of the nearly 100 people in attendance, including dozens of E.W. Luther students.

We thank him for his service, and for the service of all our our veterans and active-duty military. The City of South Milwaukee is blessed to have a number of veteran employees, and those who currently serve. We stand with them and are proud to support their efforts.

As Lt. Walker said …

There’s a common thread that binds veterans of all conflicts and all services together. They put the needs of their nation ahead of their own personal dreams, ambitions, and often their families, their careers, their education, and more. They are the few and the proud, and yes, they deserve all the praise and adoration we can muster.

I ask you once again, rather than simply praising them, honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans by becoming the sort of Americans worth fighting for, for we all fight because we love this country and hope to see it grow and succeed. The veteran can rest assured and know every day when they look in the mirror, that they did what they could for their country.

Take the gift that our veterans have given, to preserve our nation and build upon this rock solid foundation to keep the United States of America a country worth the sacrifice. On behalf of veterans everywhere, I ask that we focus on all that binds us together as Americans – from our heroic origins, to our love of the freedoms and prosperity we enjoy today. Ask what you can do to serve this country and unify this great nation, so the sacrifice of our veterans is not in vain.

This is the Promised Land thanks to those who have sacrificed and preserved it as such. Let us never take that for granted. Let us always be the example the world looks to as a symbol of hope, inspiration, and freedom.

Here are his full remarks. Thanks, Lt. Walker, for your service.

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It’s Christmas Season! South Milwaukee Holiday Events Start Tomorrow

I’m happy to bring back the holiday events list on South Milwaukee Blog, knowing I probably missed a couple. Please send your event information along, and I’ll post updates as I get them.

For now, enjoy the start of Christmas 2019 in South Milwaukee this weekend, with events at the Grobschmidt Senior Center and Knights of Columbus hall. And start planning your Holiday Lights Award entries!

Also, note that the city’s Old Fashioned Christmas celebration is the Saturday before Thanksgiving this year, November 23. Mark your calendars, and plan your parade entries.

Here is a PDF list.
Here is a PDF list.

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Private-Public Partnerships to Keep us All Safe

There are so many examples of these from our police and fire departments, and I wanted to share three just in the past week.

From their Facebook pages …

Thanks to our good friends and strong community partners at Eaton’s Cooper Power Systems Plant, Captain Craig Boschke, Lieutenant Kurt Egner, and Firefighter/Paramedic Mike Landgraf were on hand to accept a generous donation of $4200 to help offset the cost of purchasing video laryngoscope equipment to assist our personnel in securing a patent airway in unresponsive patients.
In yet another example of city / private industry cooperation, the SMFD provided fire extinguisher training to third shift employees at Eaton’s Cooper Power Systems plant. The other two shifts will receive the training in the coming days.

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Responsibly Investing Your Money: 2020 South Milwaukee Budget Published

We’ve published the 2020 budget, and it was another difficult one – and one that reflects our limited options to deal with rising costs. 

Our biggest challenge this year: a hole caused by a more than $400,000 increase in our health insurance premiums due to large, catastrophic claims.

The budget balances and meets that challenge, avoiding service cuts,.

For 2020, after a tax cut in 2019, the city tax levy is proposed to be $11,490,735 for 2020, a 4.62% increase over last year. This means the city portion of most property tax bills will go up by about that amount. (Tax rates will not be set until later in November.)

Why the increase?

State law allows our “base” levy to increase by the amount of our new construction, and for a fully developed city like ours that is usually around 0. This year, that “net new construction” growth number is +0.2%; therefore the city’s base levy can grow by that amount. This is the 12th straight year where the city’s net new construction growth measured 1% or less.

However, there is an important exception to levy limits that allowed us to avoid significant pain in balancing our budget: Debt incurred after 2005 is excluded from our levy limit calculation. 

Our debt grew by more than $700,000 in 2019, mostly to fund the recent water and wastewater plant and infrastructure upgrades, and costs related to our tax incremental financing districts.

We are applying some of that flexibility to fund the insurance increase and balance the budget. Without this exception, we would be facing a more than $400,000 shortfall and most certainly be talking about cutting services.

 Check out the proposed 2020 budget here. Other budget highlights …

  • Expenditures are expected to increase about 5.1% to just over $21 million. Removing debt service and refunded taxes, our expenditures will grow by about 1.75%, allowing us to receive an approximately $360,000 expenditure restraint payment from the state – a state aid that hasn’t increased significantly in more than a decade.
  • Revenues are expected to increase 5.65% to more than $9.5 million primarily due to reimbursements from the TIDs and utilities for debt service. 
  • Other state aids will remain flat: Stated shared revenue is expected to come in at $2.87 million, with transportation aids at $979,008. Recycling aids will come at $82,000.
  • The budget reflects the referendum passed in 2017, which has helped us keep funding for public safety stable and will for years. We have again segregated the extra revenue from the referendum to support the sustained funding of our paramedic program and the 2018 hiring of two new police officers. We feel it’s important to segregate the funds this way to ensure taxpayers can see the additional revenue is being spent in exactly the way we said it would. We will continue to deliver this transparency.
  • The budget includes a 2% across-the-board salary increase plus step advancement for employees; police and fire union employees are guaranteed this per their contract.

We continue to be responsible stewards of taxpayer money, and we will continue to be. And there is strong data to prove this.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum — the gold standard, in my mind, of independent research on governments — recently released its Municipal Data Tool, and it shows we manage our finances, and live within our means, as well as anyone.

While their most recent data is from 2018, it shows us with the third-lowest property tax levy per capita among the 19 communities in the county. Similarly, we stack up well in their measures of net operating spending per capita (third lowest) and debt (also third lowest).

Check out the chart with this post, and do your own comparisons here.

While we are proud of how we compare, things must change when it comes to flexibility on how we raise revenue.

As I’ve said, we are too reliant on the property tax in Wisconsin, and South Milwaukee. We need alternative funding solutions for government, to ensure we can continue to deliver the services you have come to expect from us, enhance them where possible and maybe add new ones.

The proposed county sales tax legislation is one good option. There are others.

Let’s fix this, and not rely on one-time exceptions – and a system that almost encourages cities to borrow more to soften the impact of levy limits — to fund our budget.

Things only get harder from here. Indeed, this year’s budget – with the levy limit exception we are taking to adequately fund the rising insurance costs — sets us up for a really challenging 2021 budget. Next year, debt service will likely decrease again, putting us in an immediate hole.

As always, we’ll adapt. At the same time, we’ll work to fix our broken system of funding local government, turning to Madison for help.

We welcome your feedback on the budget at the formal public hearing at 6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 18. The council will consider passage of the document the following night.


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