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Racine approves referendum to ask voters for a tax hike to pay for more police officers

Racine Mayor Corey Mason inside common council chambers
Posted at 4:04 PM, May 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-31 23:17:01-04

RACINE, Wis. — Racine leaders will ask voters to raise their taxes to pay for more police in a referendum on the August ballot.

It is something at least three other southeast Wisconsin cities either approved or are considering.

"We have seen a spike in violent crime,” said Racine Mayor Corey Mason.

Racine Mayor Corey Mason inside common council chambers
Racine Mayor Corey Mason speaks with TMJ4 News reporter Rebecca Klopf in the Common Council chambers.

The solution from the City of Racine is to hire 11 more police officers. But to do that, the city would need to raise the tax levy by $2 million and that means property taxes would increase by more than 3.5 percent.

"We are hearing that loud and clear across the community that people would like to see more public safety and that includes additional police officers. But people want a holistic approach. They just don't want to see more arrests for the sake of arrests. They want to be safe and want to know violent crime will decrease, so that means more police where needed and that also means investing in prevention,” said Mayor Mason.

Racine isn't alone. Kenosha is asking voters a similar question on the August primary ballot. The city wants $2.5 million to add 16 additional police and firefighters.

Racine Police

During the April election, both Pleasant Prairie and Butler approved referendums. Pleasant Prairie voters approved $1.6 million to hire 16 police, firefighters and public safety employees. In Butler, voters said yes to a $140,000 referendum. It will be used to hire one additional police officer.

Rob Henken, the president of the on-partisan group Wisconsin Policy Forum, says this could be just the start of these types of referendums.

“They [municipalities] have been faced with these stringent levy limits, year after year after year for more than a decade. They are having enough difficulty, particularly in a time of high inflation, just accommodating their general costs to continue while staying within these levy limits. To the extent that they deem it necessary to add staff, that is what is requiring them to go to the voters, because they simply do not have the capacity under the living limits, unless they want to make cuts to other types of local government services,” said Henken.

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Robert Hayes, Racine voter

However, some Racine voters have serious questions about simply increasing the number of police.

"If you get people trained to go out with mental health issues, cause everybody that is arrested, some of them need mental health help. If you are doing something of that particular level, I could understand that. But just for police officers on the street, I don't get it,” said voter Robert Hayes.

The Racine Common Council will have to approve putting the referendum question to add police officers on the ballot.

The meeting was Tuesday evening. The Common Council approved putting the referendum on the August ballot.

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