POLITICS
03/31/2014 06:45 pm ET | Updated Apr 01, 2014

Milwaukee Voters May Decide To Cut Salaries For Public Servants In Half

Voters in Milwaukee will take to the ballot box on Tuesday to decide whether county supervisors should have their salaries cut in half, effectively imposing part-time status on the Milwaukee County Board.

The measure is a provision of a 2013 state law, authored by state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R), that drastically slashed the Milwaukee County Board’s budgetary powers and resources. The law cuts supervisors' power over contracts, labor negotiations and land sales. The only provision subject to voter approval is the one regarding salaries.

“This position of a County Board Supervisor definitely is not enough for a full-time job,” Sanfelippo, a former county supervisor, told Fox 6 last Tuesday. “Granted, from district-to-district it may vary a little bit, but by doing the job myself I can tell you it’s not a full-time position.”

In addition to cutting county supervisor pay from $50,679 a year to $24,051, the proposal would bar supervisors from receiving future pension and health benefits. The board chairman's pay would be reduced from $71,412 to $36,076.

Opponents of the salary reduction, including the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, argue the measure would deter high-caliber candidates from pursuing supervisor positions.

“Who in the hell is going to do that job?" Sheila Cochrane, secretary-treasurer of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Sunday. "We can always look for the market value of a CEO, but when it comes to our public servants, we drive that wage down so low."

Current Milwaukee County Supervisor David Bowen called the referendum a “sham” pushed by “disconnected politicians in Madison” who included the provision in last year’s law.

If voters pass the referendum, the reduction in pay would save taxpayers more than $475,000 a year. Changes would go into effect in April 2016.

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