MILWAUKEE — Shoppers in Milwaukee will see a 2% increase to the city’s sale tax at the beginning of 2024.
Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson officially signed off on the ordinance Friday at the city’s Mitchell Street Library.
The tax is expected to generate nearly $200 million in revenue.
Johnson said he believes passing the ordinance was one of the Common Council’s most important actions.
“It’s difficult to imagine a more important Common Council action in Milwaukee’s history but with this file, we’ve avoided disaster and equally important we’ve set the stage for a more positive future in our city with investments in police and firefighters. Our residents can look forward to greater public safety,” said Johnson.
Johnson also made clear that the sales tax increase will not impact groceries and prescription drugs.
The Milwaukee Public Library said it is also grateful for the increased city sales tax simply because it will allow the library system to continue operating without worry of cuts.
Karli Pederson, the associate director of IT at the library, said she was happy to see the ordinance signed specifically at the Mitchell Street Library.
“I think it’s important because it speaks to the importance of this bill to our in general and that this is a location that has been a community hub with all of the services with all of the services we are able to provide,” said Pederson.
Although revenue generated from the sales tax will go to support the city’s pension system and adding more police and firefighters, Pederson said she believes the library also stands to benefit
“Without these changes, we would have been seeing drastic cuts as the mayor and the budget director have spoken to and this helps us stabilize our services and continue the many valuable resources that our communities rely upon with the Milwaukee Public Library,” said Pederson.
The Mitchell Street Library is a part of Common Council President Jose Perez’s district.
Perez explained while he voted in favor of the increased sales tax, there was also some frustration.
“The word that comes to mind is relief," said Perez, "Relief that for the first time years the city can prepare a budget without a dark shadow over it but there is frustration too. Frustration that we were asked to tax our residents rather than be given a return on our region’s economic output.”
Reiad Kharoub, who owns Ultimate Home Furniture, said he shares that frustration. While Kharoub said he is a supporter of increased public safety, he is concerned about what the higher sales tax could mean for his business.
“A 2% increase is going to be an increase of $40 to $50, sometimes $100, depending on much they spend and 9 times out of 10 when we make those big sales, we like to cut deals for customers and so that’s honestly [going to] be an increased expense for us as a business, which I am not the biggest fan of, but it is what it is,” said Kharoub.
With the increased sales tax set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, Pederson said the library's goals will be to continue to support literacy and provide job resources.
“We all really value the role that we play with our community and being able to provide those services and we look forward to being able to continue to provide those valuable resources to our community and supporting them in their needs and their interests,” said Pederson.
For Pederson, that means supporting the city’s future; officials said they hope this plan will help move the city forward.