‘Impact has been very negative:’ Residency study shows 21 percent of city workers don’t live in Milwaukee

Milwaukee Police Department

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and several aldermen are saying many city workers choose not to live in the city, and that's having a huge financial impact. The city's Legislative Reference Bureau did some number crunching and overall, 21 percent of City of Milwaukee workers don't live in Milwaukee, according to their analysis. The new numbers have city leaders talking.

Milwaukee police officers and firefighters -- two main groups that used to have to live in the City of Milwaukee, were under a 75-year-old residency requirement. The Wisconsin Legislature changed that in 2013, and it was upheld by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2016.

Alderman Michael Murphy

"The people who pay the price are the taxpayers of Milwaukee," said Alderman Michael Murphy.

The memo shows more than 1,300 of the city's 6,500 workers live outside the city.

  • 37 percent of Milwaukee firefighters are non-residents
  • 33 percent of Milwaukee police officers are non-residents

"The impact has been very negative for the city, very positive for the suburbs, where by chance the Republican leadership and the governor have control," Murphy said.

Officials say that translates into a loss of property taxes and spending in the city.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

"Now we have a situation where the people who were helping us pay for the salaries of the police officers, the firefighters and the general city employees -- those people who are getting those salaries, often very good salaries, are not paying for them," said Mayor Barrett.

Not everyone agrees.

The president of the Milwaukee Police Association, Mike Crivello said: "unfortunately the city has attacked something that has been a great benefit to the officers morale and ultimately a great benefit to the city we proudly serve."

The Wisconsin Institution for Law and Liberty issued a statement saying: "Decisions about where to live are complex and personal and should not be dictated by the government. If politicians in the City of Milwaukee are concerned about the people leaving the city they should pursue policies that make Milwaukee a more attractive place to live."

So where did all the back and forth words leave us? One thing that could happen -- Alderman Murphy said they may look at enforcing part of the requirement that mandates police and firefighters who don't live in the city, be within a 15-mile radius and we should stay tuned.

Related documents: