Milwaukee employee salaries

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Milwaukee employee salaries are public records under the Wisconsin Open Records Law.

According to 2008 U.S. Census data, the state of Wisconsin and local governments in the state employed a total of 379,539 people.[1] Of those employees, 240,747 were full-time employees receiving net pay of $998,312,248 per month and 138,792 were part-time employees paid $123,619,591 per month.[1] More than 57% of those employees, or 218,585 employees, were in education or higher education.[1]

According to a 2010 report published at Northwestern University, Milwaukee is one of the 10 municipalities with the largest amount of unfunded pension liabilities. Nationwide there is $574 billion in unfunded pension liabilities for local pension plans, and this is in addition to the $3 trillion in debt facing state-sponsored pension plans.[2] The report states that the pension plans could be out of money as early at 2025.[2]

Municipality (number of plans) Liabilities, stated basis, June ’09 ($B) Liabilities (ABO), treasury rate Net pension assets ($B) Unfunded liability ($B) Unfunded liability / revenue Unfunded liability per household ($)
Milwaukee (1) 4.4 6.7 3.3 3.4 687% 14,853

The following data for the City of Milwaukee was gathered from the city's April 27, 2011 response to a Public Records Request submitted April 14, 2011.

The city's response to the Public Records Request noted that there were no city employees with a salary of $150,000 or more per year. Per city ordinance, no city employee can have a salary higher than the mayor's salary, which was currently $147,335.76 at the time of the records request.


In response to the Public Records Request, the city provided the annual salaries for the mayor, aldermen, and Common Council president for January 1, 2008 through January 1, 2011.

Job title January 1, 2008 to May 3, 2008 May 4, 2008 to May 2, 2009 May 3, 2009 to May 1, 2010 May 2, 1010 to January 1, 2011
Mayor $143,882.70 $147,335.76 $147,335.76 $147,335.76
Alderman $71,505.98 $73,222.24 $73,222.24 $73,222.24
Common Council President $80,809.82 $82,749.16 $82,749.16 $82,749.16


The city requested clarification regarding the request for benefits information for the mayor and Common Council members. The city said that the request for benefits information for employees with salaries of $150,000 or higher was not applicable. The Public Records Request response noted that benefits available to city employees can be found in Chapter 350 of the City's Code of Ordinances, which is available online. Further information regarding benefits was pending a refined Public Records Request as of July 12, 2011.

Salary records project

In 2011, Sunshine Review chose 152 local governments as the focus of research on public employee salaries. The editors of Sunshine Review selected eight states with relevant political contexts (listed alphabetically):

1. California
2. Florida
3. Illinois
4. Michigan
5. New Jersey
6. Pennsylvania
7. Texas
8. Wisconsin

Within these states, the editors of Sunshine Review focused on the most populous cities, counties and school districts, as well as the emergency services entities within these governments. The purpose of this selection method was to develop articles on governments affecting the most citizens.

The salary information garnered from these states were a combination of existing online resources and state Freedom of Information Act requests sent out to the governments.

Importance of public employee pay disclosure

In July 2010, The Los Angeles Times uncovered that officials in Bell, California were making remarkably high salaries.[3] Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo was earning a yearly $787,637. It was later uncovered that Rizzo's total compensation after taking benefits into account topped $1.5 million a year.[4]

For comparison:[3]

  • Manhattan Beach, with about 7,000 fewer people than Bell, paid its most recent city manager $257,484 a year.
  • Long Beach, with a population close to 500,000, paid its city manager $235,000 annually.
  • Los Angeles County paid its chief executive, William T. Fujioka, $338,458.

Corruption solution

After this report was released, governments began to proactively disclose salary information of their employees. Before the end of the summer of 2010, more than a dozen cities in Orange County, for example, posted salary information on the front pages of their websites.[5]

The cost of transparency websites maintaining such information ranges from the tens of thousands to the hundreds of thousands. These websites also save money, and this often is not taken into account when measuring costs.

Citizens upset about the breach of trust and armed with information formed a group called the Bell Association to Stop the Abuse, which pushed for an independent audit of city salaries and contracts.[6]

Citizens, empowered with information, are key to keeping government free from corruption and efficient. A study published by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia revealed that the city of Philadelphia has a problem with the efficiency and costs of public employee pensions.[7] The amount that Philadelphia pays to pension recipients limits the city’s ability to use its budget effectively.

The report revealed that there were more individuals receiving pension benefits—33,907 claimants in 2006—than workers in the city—28,701.[7] The authors of the study recommend three steps towards addressing the problem of high costs in pensions.[7] First, improve data collection so that decision-making in terms of pension policies is more informed. Second, promote transparency for better accountability to citizens. Third, reduce costs and use the savings for developing Philadelphia.

Resistance to public employee salary data as public records

The idea of making public employee salaries is relatively new. In 2008, several local government employee associations and unions protested the posting of state employee salaries by newspaper The Sacramento Bee.[8][9] At the time, it was seen as a safety risk and invasion of privacy.

Sunshine Review aims in posting salary information

Publicly posted salaries often leave out important information. Salary schedules can be published as ranges, not as specific take-home compensation, and high-level, highly-paid positions are often not disclosed proactively.[5][4] Additionally, salaries leave out compensation received through health and retirement benefits, as well as benefits such as commuter allowances and cell phone reimbursements. This project aimed to close the gap and provide a more accurate picture of public employee salaries for the sake of public education and transparency.

See also

External links