Milwaukee County Board:
Retiree Costs Not That Big of a Deal
As the push for a $1.2 million annual tax hike begins, the Milwaukee County Board is touting data that attempts to downplay the drag retiree benefits have on the County budget.
The data indicates the annual pension payments to county retirees averages out to only $17,600 per retiree per year. But there are more than 6,000 retirees.
"We must continue to do all we can legally to keep County pension costs to a minimum," said Holloway. "But it is wrong to portray all County retirees as receiving large pensions, as this data shows."
Moreover, Holloway and his enablers on the board conveniently decide NOT to highlight the costs associated with the lifetime free health care for retirees and their families that many retirees still get. Or the fact that many of these retirees, who leave their jobs while in their 50s, will be in the system for decades, with health care costs only escalating over time.
To be sure, this is not all covered by the tax levy. For example, the County put in less than $20 million to cover the pension obligation last year. The retirement system pays out their obligation with monies earned through investments, too. But there is a huge crisis looming.
As Scott Walker says when making the case against the sales tax hike:
So while retiree costs are not the only component squeezing the Milwaukee County budget, they are a significant concern--regardless of whether the board will admit it or not. Their 'head in the sand' mentality is what put Milwaukee County in this budget crunch in the first place.
First, it will give Milwaukee County the highest (by far) sales tax in the state. If you go out to eat in the county, add 6.85% to your bill. Can you say 'tax island?'
Second, even if the voters passed a resolution (unlikely), the state government still has to approve an increase in the sales tax. Last I checked both candidates for Governor and the leaders of the State Legislature were opposed to new taxes. In other words, residents could be dragged through this entire debate only to find out that the state says no.
Third, it hasn't worked before. In 1991, the county enacted a .5% sales tax increase for 'property tax relief.' From 1992 to 2002, the property tax levy went up 52%.
Fourth, it is not that we don't have enough money; it is that the county does not spend it well. Our parks system costs $37 million. Pensions will cost the county $50 million next year. Free health care for life will cost $29 million in 2007.
True, not all retirees are pulling down big bucks. And clearly, not all Milwaukee County employees are pulling down exorbitant salaries. Yet, I continue to be amazed that this Board actually chastises Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker for being too pessimistic about the county's fiscal predicament and the ongoing costs associated with exorbitant benefit packages for many employees and retirees.
But, with this bunch, I guess nothing should surprise us anymore.