Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Milwaukee County Board Again Threw Away $800,000

Unnoticed during the financially-strapped Milwaukee County Board's 2010 budget deliberations was its routine transfer of a huge gob of local property tax dollars to pay an assigned share of the annual operating expenses of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC).

SEWRPC's non-elected 21 commissioners (three each from seven counties, regardless of population) bill the Counties annually and get their checks in the mail.

Milwaukee County, based on its share of the seven counties' equalized property value, always pays the most: in 2009, the bill hit more than $841,000 (see p. 16 of the SEWRPC budget).

The 2010 payment will be in that range, give or take.

Supervisors tangle each year over pet projects, programs, taxes, fees, parking rates, janitorial services, and long lists of people, places and things.

But they silently approve SEWRPC's check each and every time - - for the last 50 years.

And the City of Milwaukee, whose taxpayers front half that County contribution, have absolutely zero say in the matter, along with zero votes on the SEWRPC board.

For the County, it's taxation without challenge. For the City, taxation without representation.

A sum in the $800,000 range would pay the salaries and benefits of about 10-12 deputies, or police officers, or for other public safety, health, or development personnel in City Hall or the County Courthouse.

Or a small rebate to taxpayers in dollars saved, or put out for competitive bid, since SEWRPC is hardly the only organization that can provide the mapping or planning services that the County might say it absolutely needed.

Instead, that same sum is sent out to SEWRPC's headquarters in Pewaukee to support planners who are working hard to divert Lake Michigan water to the City of Waukesha, or to approve Interstate highway expansions in the out-counties or to otherwise busy themselves moving capital and jobs farther from the very people who each year pick up the largest piece of SEWRPC's operating budget.

The next time a Milwaukee County supervisor wails about the tough budget and the lack of money to spend on good things, ask that supervisor about the SEWRPC appropriation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Having just lost my job, at the Planning Commission, (SEWRPC) I feel bitter sweet about your article. SEWRPC did a lot of good, but yes, there was waste. I was the "sacrificial lamb" at the bottom who gave them an extra hour every day (started at 6:30 a.m.) didn't take breaks, did my job and went home. The waste was at the top as it continues. Until the "politics" gets cleaned-up SEWRPC will cost money because the former executives will continue to hang around.