Milwaukee County sales tax increase, Thursday vote planned

The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors plans to vote Thursday, July 27 on whether to raise the sales tax.

Right now in Milwaukee County, spenders pay a 5.5% sales tax on everything from cars to clothes to furniture – 5% goes to the state, and 0.5% goes to the county. In January, the city of Milwaukee will start a 2% sales tax as well.

County supervisors will vote on whether to add 0.4% on top of the existing 0.5% county sales tax. That would be a total of 7.9% sales tax in the city of Milwaukee and 5.9% in the rest of Milwaukee County. Compared to Waukesha County, where there is no county sales tax, the same things over there would be taxed at 5%.

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"I just hope that they don’t try and raise it again in the future. If this is a one-time thing for a while. I think then, yes, it probably should be done," said Mary Zayac in Greenfield.

"I don’t like having to pay it, but in the meantime, I think it’s part of our duty," said Jennifer Daul of Milwaukee.

"If they’re going to use it for a good reason, to improve the city, yeah," said Lucia Francis, who lives in Ozaukee County.

The Wisconsin Legislature and Gov. Tony Evers gave the power to the county to go behind the maximum other counties can charge. Supporters said, without it, the county would have to make massive cuts to housing, transit, safety and parks.

It will take two-thirds of elected county board members to approve – it means 12 of the 18 need to vote "yes."

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"No, this doesn’t seem like a good time. Interest rates are going up, and everything's costing more these days," said Rebecca Smith of Cudahy. "It doesn’t seem like a good time, but maybe there’s never a good time."

Supervisor Ryan Clancy has opposed the added sales tax and said he will request that the board delay its vote. He also wants supervisors to consider his new proposal: If the tax does become law, he wants to use extra money to provide free transit rides.

"The poor and working class don’t have lobbyists," he said.

Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors

If approved, the added county sales tax would start in January 2024. It lasts for either 30 years or whenever the retirement system is fully funded, whichever comes first.

The state estimates the added tax would bring the county roughly $82 million per year. That must be used for the pension.

The state’s Act 12 also places strings on the county, one of which says, moving forward, two-thirds of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors will need to approve money for new programs or increased jobs.

How much will it cost you?

The Milwaukee County Budget Office estimated the average impact of the proposed added tax.

On average, those making less than $16,000 per year could see an added $46 in taxes. For those making $60,000 per year, they could see an estimated $148 per year in the new county tax. Those making roughly $221,000 could see an annual impact of $409. Finally, people with an annual salary of $983,000 could expect to spend an extra $1,095 per year, according to the budget office.