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Wauwatosa fire, police asked to bring in more money

Writing more parking tickets may be option, alderman suggests

Photo By Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Sept. 19, 2012

With the city under budgetary pressures, the Wauwatosa Police and Fire departments have been asked to pursue revenue-raising strategies, including, for the Police Department, writing more parking tickets.

At last week's meeting on the 2013 budget, Alderman Joel Tilleson urged Police Chief Barry Weber to prioritize parking enforcement - calling it a "money maker for the city" - on slow nights, and sought to explore the idea of more often employing city ordnances for law enforcement, as opposed to enforcing state laws that are prosecuted by the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office. Such a move would cut down officer overtime, he said.

"For myself, looking at some of the realities of the next budget, in 2014," Tilleson said in an interview, "it would make sense if the Police Department could help shore up and bring some money to the table to offset some of the tough realities we're going to face. So, if that means creating a source of revenue, then I'm all for that."

The department expects to collect $540,000 from citations for parking violations this year.

Weber said he recognizes the pressure the city is under, but that his night-shift officers already are writing about as many parking tickets as they can while still protecting the city. Evening staffing is low as it is, and one crime or safety event in an evening means little or no parking enforcement for the night.

"I don't think it'll change anything for us," Weber said of Tilleson's proposal.

Focus on city laws

"The priority of the Police Department should be, and I firmly believe that it is, to serve and protect, and I stand by that," Tilleson said. "They're not out there to make money, and we don't expect them to make money, but, if in the act of serving and protecting, they can contribute to their budget, then I support that as well."

Tilleson also said he is interested in exploring the use of city ordinance enforcement as a more efficient prosecutorial process. City officers spend hours as witnesses at the courthouse in downtown Milwaukee, much of it overtime.

Weber said the state is pretty clear on the kinds of violations that should be referred to the district attorney's office.

"There might be room for some discussions on that," he said of ordinance enforcement. "We're open to the discussions, but at the same time, we want to make sure that we're doing things in the right way and for the right reasons."

The district attorney's office offers a degree of uniformity in prosecution, he said.

"We tell the guys to go out there and enforce the law, especially the violations that are going to cause accidents or cause injuries; that's what we're going to be concerned about," he said.

Weber said when municipal citations go unpaid, they eventually result in "time in the House of Correction, which we pay for."

Fire house mechanics

The Fire Department, under similar pressures, has developed a shared shop and mechanic arrangement with the North Shore Fire Department that Fire Chief Rob Ugaste said could become a moneymaker by performing contract warranty work on fire vehicles for departments in the area.

Other revenue sources include EMS transport fees, generally covered by insurance companies, that have bought in $500,000 in the last five years, among other things.

City Finance Director John Ruggini said state legislative action restricting levy increases has forced municipalities to rethink how they raise money.

For city departments including Police and Fire, "We ask them for levy reduction strategies," he said, which means both cuts in spending and employing methods of raising revenue.

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