Sunday, January 13, 2013

Residency Requirements

Much (in the last year) talk about ending the residency requirement for City of Milwaukee (especially for police and firefighters) has been bandied about. Primarily by persons whose motives, and interest in this topic, are unclear. The residency requirement has been in place since 1930. Why is the state interfering with a City of Milwaukee employment policy?

Recently, Gary Kraeger, a Wind Lake appraiser, weighed in - The Principles Of The Residency Rule. He opines, "Milwaukee is everyone's business in the state, especially since Milwaukee is very dependent on state money [state aid to Milwaukee has actually plummeted]... On a third hand, Milwaukee is the fourth-poorest big city in America [not sure where this number comes from, Kraeger doesn't say], at last word, and I suspect it might move up a bit if we dump the residency rule. In which case, I expect Milwaukee to need even more of our money. On another hand, it sounds sensible that if you want taxpayers to pay your salary in a community, you should be one of them. In that way, if your compensation benefits from high taxation, at least you're pulling the cart, too. Also, normally you care more about the community you live in."

Kraeger states, "On principle, however, the residency rule should be lifted and lifted by Milwaukee itself." Um, yeah, so if it should be up to Milwaukee, why are so many people outside of Milwaukee concerning themselves with Milwaukee governance?

"The biggest hand of all is the principle of freedom," claims Kraeger. When it comes down to it, Americans should be able to do what they want, when they want, and where they want. No rules, no questions.

Kraeger continues on describing how removing the requirement could hurt property values in the City. So, he has laid out numerous economic examples of why the residency requirement is in place. Numerous reasons why it should be there. But he then concludes that it should be ended. Why? Freedom.

If the ultimate rationale for an argument one poses is "freedom," one really doesn't have much of an argument or a rationale.

The residency requirement is a pretty simple, straight-forward policy - as a public worker, you should live in the city that employs you. The economic idea of "leakage" is addressed by such a policy. Much of the dollars earned by these public employees will be spent back within the community. Which also addresses the economic multiplier effect - money earned and spent in the same area, thus percolating and rippling throughout the local economy, over and over. As opposed to City of Milwaukee tax dollars funding a Milwaukee Police Officer who now lives in Waukesha and spends most of his/her money there.

There are 2,697 City of Milwaukee fire and police employees. The average police employee earns $65,649; for fire it's $67,554. This a potential $177 million dollars of earnings "leaking" out of the city, including property taxes, sales taxes, and other spending.

The possible loss of property taxes, spending at local businesses, and neighborhood stability are more than sufficient reasons for maintaining the requirement. The economics behind the requirement make it a no-brainer.

Governing is a set of rules. If you want to live or participate in certain communities you have to follow their rules. Some subdivisions make homeowners have 5-acre lots. Others require certain facades or materials be similar amongst the homes. If you don't like those rules, you go somewhere else. That's freedom. Freedom isn't doing away with things one doesn't like.

1 comment:

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