Over 1,350 residents provided feedback

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SOUTH MILWAUKEE - A majority of the 1,351 respondents to a local public safety survey support a referendum to increase local property taxes in order to maintain existing fire and emergency medical services and hire two additional police officers.

The city's common council and administration have received a presentation summarizing the results of the communitywide survey conducted earlier this year.

Those highlights revealed in the survey are punctuated by a strong response from the public to options presented and public safety in general, officials said.

Concerned residents

“The community’s strong participation in the survey process is a testament to how much residents value our first-class fire and police services,” South Milwaukee Mayor Erik Brooks said. “This feedback will help the city make a decision on how to address our budget challenges moving forward.”

A continuing decline in outside funding for paramedic services – especially funding from Milwaukee County – has created a significant budget gap that continues to grow.

The city must take action if it is to preserve locally provided paramedic services into the future, Brooks said. The city has also identified a need for additional police officers to fulfill all of the department’s response and preventative responsibilities.

Community Perceptions, an independent Wisconsin-based research firm with expertise in conducting community surveys, was hired to administer and analyze the survey. The firm’s president, Bill Foster, shared the findings with the council on June 20.

Survey highlights

Highlights from the presentation include:

  • 88 percent of respondents indicated that maintaining the current level of emergency services is important to them and their families.
  • Three-quarters of the respondents encouraged the city to explore additional funding options to maintain the current level of EMS services rather than reducing services to balance the budget.
  • A majority of respondents support a referendum to increase local property taxes to fund public safety.

Complete survey results are available on the city’s website at www.smwi.org.

The city has developed an assessment of public safety funding options to provide additional details on the decisions facing local leaders. Residents are encouraged to review the assessment, which can be found on the city’s website.

The common council will evaluate the community’s feedback before making a final decision on whether to proceed with a referendum as part of the 2018 budget process. If a referendum is scheduled, it would likely be in early November.

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