They have to start paying into the pension program, so some city employees could be in line for a raise

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- More than 2,000 city of Milwaukee employees could be in line for a raise. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett's 2015 budget proposal includes a 3.9% raise for employees who are about to start paying into the state's pension program.

Even though Act 10 passed in 2011, the city of Milwaukee continued to cover pension contributions for its workers -- something the new law banned. The Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld Act 10 earlier this summer, and now, employees will have to pay into their pension funds.

City officials say raises for employees paying into the state's pension program would offset some of the costs.

Act 10 forbids cities from paying the entire pension contribution for employees, but that doesn't apply to police or fire unions.

"They`re routinely getting four percent raises annually while everybody else is getting a zero or one percent raise and that imbalance, the longer it continues, is gonna hurt morale and make it harder and harder to run a city in a fair manner," Milwaukee Alderman Nik Kovac said.

With the Supreme Court upholding Act 10, 5.5% of wages for city employees will go toward their pensions.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has proposed a 3.9% raise for the nearly 2,400 workers this will affect. The proposal would also eliminate furlough days.

"That`s particularly helpful to the city for many of its operations. The Department of Public Works avoids falling behind in areas like garbage collection, recycling, and of course, being able to keep the libraries open on those days," City of Milwaukee Budget and Management Director Mark Nicolini said.

Nicolini says giving raises and eliminating furlough days will cost about $8 million. That's the amount the city had been paying to cover those pension contributions.

"I think if it exceeded it, it would be extremely controversial. I think as it is, most people`s reactions are `this seems reasonable,'" Kovac said.

Even though the costs offset, Alderman Kovac says he knows some taxpayers will suggest that $8 million be spent elsewhere.

"I`m open to that criticism and I`ll listen to it and if someone can point to an infrastructure need that needs that money, we`ll consider shifting the money," Kovac said.

Taxpayers and city employees can respond to this proposal next Monday night, October 6th during a budget hearing open to the public.