By Mayor Dennis McBride
Best wishes to all during this holiday season! Despite many challenges, we have much to be thankful for.
COVID-19 has taken a terrible toll throughout the world, but, because of great work by scientists and health care workers, including Wauwatosa Health Department employees and volunteers, many Americans have been vaccinated. Vaccines now available for children may help us put the pandemic behind us.
We also have good news for Wauwatosa taxpayers. Although we continue to suffer from the financial impact of the pandemic and the state’s property tax levy cap, the City’s 2022 budget – which the Common Council approved in November – maintains our strong AAA debt rating and prepares us for future challenges while enhancing public services.
Budget Improves Services
The budget increases mental health offerings, implements Center for Public Safety Management recommendations for changes in the Wauwatosa Police Department, adds more Sundays to the Library’s days of service, promotes public engagement and fair elections, and makes a first annual $125,000 investment in the Community Development Authority’s affordable housing fund. We will reinvigorate the WPD’s Com- munity Service Officer program, hire a social worker to provide mental health services for the WPD and Health Department, and hire a new Human Resources Department employee to work on WPD recruitment and focus on workplace culture and diversity. The City Clerk will implement new software to make it easier for the public to access agendas and submit comments, and to reduce human error and provide a clear audit trail when managing elections.
Lowering Tax Levy
All this will occur while we drop the City portion of residents’ property tax bills (30% of which are levied by the City) to its lowest level since 2011, reduce the City’s overall debt, and minimize future debt by paying $800,000 in cash (rather than borrowing) for projects like road repairs.
How It Happens
This “magic” is possible because of a 10% increase in the City’s tax base because of new developments and because part of the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center became taxable electricity costs.
Finally, Wauwatosa is receiving about $24 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. ARPA funds can be used to promote public health, address the negative economic impact of the pandemic, and invest in water and sewer infrastructure. Because future generations will pay the Pitaxes to fund the once-in-a-generation ARPA programs, we need to spend the money on initiatives that will benefit residents not just for a year or two but for years to come. The City has begun a process of hearing from residents how ARPA funds should be spent.
Please go to talktosa.org/arpa-community-engagement to share your ideas.
Call to Action
As Wauwatosa moves for- ward, we should remember those who are less fortunate. If possible, let’s share our good fortune and make holiday donations to the Tosa Food Pantry, Hunger Task Force, or other charity.