Major structural changes take effect Monday for the Milwaukee County Board – right after supervisors take the oath of office. A new state law will cut their salaries in half, eliminate their health care benefits and reduce their terms from four years to two.
State Republicans initiated those changes after hearing complaints about board members micro-managing the county and the high cost of a full-time board. Voters agreed.
WUWM talks with a few supervisors about how they plan to adjust.
Outgoing Milwaukee Supervisor Pat Jursik is giving her successor a tour of the County Board offices, located in the courthouse. Jursik has served Milwaukee’s southern suburbs on the board for nine years. She decided not to seek another term in 2016, yet stopped short of citing reduced pay as the reason.
“It was a good time for me personally. I think you’re going to see more retired folks or very young people who are going to be the representatives,” Jursik says.
Jursik’s successor is a retired Wisconsin parole officer, David Sartori. He’s one of five incoming supervisors who won election this month and will be sworn-in today to a two-year term. Sartori says he’s passionate about the county, especially the parks and economic development, and he feels lucky he has the time to devote to the job. He even wants to give back some of the $24,000 annual salary he’ll earn.
“I fortunately have a comfortable retirement. I can afford to serve on the County Board. As a matter of fact, I made a commitment to donate $200 every single month out of my pay check to Hunger Task Force here in Milwaukee,” Sartori says.
Another new supervisor is Sequannah Taylor; her district covers part of Milwaukee’s north side and Brown Deer. Unlike Sartori, Taylor still has another job and intends to keep it. She works 30 hours a week in Milwaukee Public Schools. “I’m talking with them about flexibility,” Taylor says.
Taylor says she’ll now serve more than 50,000 constituents in her new district and wonders if a part-time supervisor can be effective.
“I know I will put my best foot forward but I definitely see the hours being cut as something that can gravely affect what I’m able to output into the community as far as being of service to them,” Taylor says.
Taylor says she hopes the newly-reconfigured county board holds its meetings at night, so it’s easier to handle two jobs. For decades, the full-time board met primarily during the day. Board Chairman Theo Lipscomb says while the idea of night meetings is being floated, they could be too costly.
“If we were to go to night meetings here, not only would we have the security issues of keeping the courthouse open and accessible to the public, but we have larger operations than most counties so the number of staff that we would need for those meetings is rather significant,” Lipscomb says.
Lipscomb says the new board appears to be largely a mix of retired people and supervisors who’ve held other careers. After today’s inauguration, the board will elect a new chairperson. The new state law also cuts that position’s salary in half, but at $36,000 per year, it’s more than the other supervisors earn.
Lipscomb plans to run again, yet even if he’s re-elected chairman, he says he’ll likely look for another job to supplement the reduced income.
“My background is in architecture and urban planning, but I worked for many years in community development, economic development for non-profits,” Lipscomb says.
As the Milwaukee County Board becomes part-time today, it will become like every other board in the state. The changes are expected to save the county $500,000 per year.