As mayor, job No. 1 is to ensure we deliver the first-class city services you have come to expect from us. And that starts with fire and police. If we’re not doing all we can to deliver on public safety, nothing else matters.
This is becoming more and more challenging given the state of our budget. We’re proud that we’ve been able to fund our services at the levels we need to, but that is getting increasingly difficult. Times are changing. We’re getting squeezed on revenues, while expenses continue to grow, and we’ve cut all we can cut – all while demand for our services increases.
That is especially the case with public safety.
South Milwaukee is certainly not alone in this, but this is our reality. We are at a crossroads, and we need your feedback to guide our future actions.
We are offering a community public safety survey to help us determine steps we need to take around investing in two key areas: preserving locally provided paramedic services and potentially adding police officers. There is a strong case to be made for doing both, but before we act we need to know what you think.
We are working with Community Perceptions, an independent firm with expertise in conducting community surveys like this.
Surveys are arriving in the mail to each South Milwaukee residence this week.
You can also take the survey online here. To do so, you will need the code included in the mailing. If you did not receive a survey in the mail or need additional access codes for other adult members in your home, call the city at 414-768-8051.
Please take the opportunity and respond. Your voice matters.
There is good background information in the survey itself, including some compelling data. Here is a sample, and you can take an even deeper dive in this document we’ve prepared. More information — including a digital version of the options assessment and the sample survey — can also be found on this page on the city website.
Here is the reality, taken verbatim from the survey …
- Paramedic services: In the past, the city has been able to use surplus funds to maintain paramedics/advanced life support (ALS) services. Starting in 2018, the city’s fund balance will no longer be available. Over the next 10 years, funding from Milwaukee County will be reduced by an additional 62%. The result is a funding gap, which will be nearly $250,000 in 2018 and double to more than $583,000 in 2027. The total projected paramedics/advanced life support (ALS) services budget shortfall between 2018-2027 will exceed $4.1 million. The city will need to make critical decisions regarding whether to maintain the current level of EMS services or reduce those life-saving services.
- Police: Over the past 20 years, the Police Department’s staffing level has decreased, despite a greater demand for officer time due to increases in crime and drug-related incidents. As a result, South Milwaukee is now well below the national average for number of officers for our population. In addition, South Milwaukee has less officers per person than every other municipality in Milwaukee County, except Greenfield. Additionally, there has been an increase in service calls beyond law enforcement’s traditional duties, including providing assistance to citizens with mental health and alcohol/drugs issues. The complexities of these incidents require officers to spend more time on the scene, preventing them from fulfilling other duties.
In other words, we’ve been forced to do more with less when it comes to public safety for many years. That is not a sustainable approach to delivering these services.
So, how do we fix this? That is what we want to hear from you.
The survey offers a number of options, including exploring outsourcing, consolidation, cuts in other department and raising taxes through a referendum — one of the few options the state gives communities like South Milwaukee to increase revenues beyond the restrictive levy limits we’ve been under for a decade.
These are complex issues, with potentially complex solutions, and your feedback will be critical as we consider a way forward.
Thanks ahead of time for your participation in the survey. We will solve this, together.
Note: All survey data is returned to Community Perceptions, and your feedback will remain anonymous. Final survey results will be reported at a Common Council meeting this summer and will also be available on the city’s website.