Municipal Spending Resumes Growth After 2012 Declines

Submitted by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance

After falling three percent in 2012, net operating spending in Wisconsin’s 244 largest cities and villages rose 2.2 percent in 2013 from $823 to $842 per person. These figures are from MunicipalFacts15, an exclusive annual study released by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX). WISTAX is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization devoted to public policy research and citizen education.

The 2013 figures represent the second full year since 2011 Act 10, which required most public sector employees to fund half of their retirement contribution, eliminated benefits as a subject of collective bargaining, and limited bargained wage increases to inflation.

A second, more focused measure of municipal spending examines only the four largest expenditure categories: general government, street maintenance, police, and fire-ambulance. After dropping 1.7 percent in 2012, these combined expenditures rose 1.6 percent in 2013, returning to their 2011 level of $562 per capita. Police expenditures (40.7 percent) accounted for the largest portion of spending, followed by fire-ambulance (24.7 percent) and street maintenance (20.5 percent).

Following a small decline in 2012, per capita net expenditures for police increased 0.6 percent to $229 per capita in 2013. Likewise, fire-ambulance expenditures fell 0.5 percent in 2012, but increased 1.1 percent in 2013 from $137 to $139 per person. The fluctuation in street maintenance was more pronounced; after a 7.5 percent drop in 2012, street maintenance spending jumped 7.4 percent in 2013 to $115 per capita, but remained below its 2011 level ($116). Per capita spending in general government bucked the trend, however, rising in 2012 and falling in 2013. Additional election costs from the 2012 recall elections helps explain why general government expenditures increased 0.2 percent in 2012, despite Act 10. In 2013, without additional election costs, expenditures fell 2.1 percent from $81 to $79 per capita.

On the revenue side of the ledger, shared revenues (state income, sales, and excise taxes shared with local governments) were unchanged in 2013 at $127 per capita. In 2012, they dropped 6.7 percent from $136 per capita in 2011. Additionally, per capita debt rose 0.3 percent in 2013 to $1,552 per capita, compared to average annual increases of 1.2 percent during 2009-13.

Closer to home, spending on municipal operations in Sturgeon Bay was $891 per capita, a -0.6 percent change from 2012 vs. the 2.2 percent increase among the 244 municipalities studied by WISTAX.

In 2013, average law enforcement spending was $229 per resident, while police spending in Sturgeon Bay was $249.

Street maintenance spending totaled $150 per capita, compared to $115 elsewhere. While net fire and ambulance expenditures averaged $139 statewide, they averaged $133 per person in Sturgeon Bay.

MunicipalFacts15 is the best one-stop resource for comparing municipal finances in Wisconsin’s 244 cities and villages with populations between 2,000 and 150,000. Because of their sizes and uniqueness, Milwaukee and Madison are detailed separately.

In addition to spending, the 116-page book provides information on property taxes, property values, debt, income, income taxes and population. Plus, each community’s property tax base is broken down by class: residential, commercial, manufacturing, and other types.

MunicipalFacts15 groups municipalities by population, making it easy to compare taxes and spending in similar-sized cities and villages.

For more information or to purchase a copy of MunicipalFacts15, available for $19.95 (plus tax and shipping), visit, email [email protected], call 608.241.9789, or write WISTAX at 401 North Lawn Ave., Madison, Wis., 53704-5033.

Customized reports showing information for any 10 municipalities can also be ordered for $14.95 (plus tax and shipping).

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