The state erased residency requirements for non-emergency public employees this summer, so Mayor Paul Soglin now wants to explore incentives for city workers to live in Madison.

Soglin has offered a resolution that directs city Human Resources Director Brad Wirtz to report to the City Council by Dec. 3 on incentives to encourage city employees to establish or maintain city residency.

Having employees live in the city is important because it puts workers close to the scene in times of emergency, ensures more wages paid by the city are spent in Madison, and employees “are the backbone of any city and it’s great to have them and their children living in the city,” the mayor said.

Soglin said other communities have financial incentives and housing allowances but that the requested study will provide detailed information on options .

“I think there’s interest in the idea,” said City Council President Chris Schmidt. “It has appeal because we’re not forcing people to do it. But there are a bunch of questions to look at.”

The council is set to discuss the resolution Nov. 19.

At one time, all city employees had a residency requirement.

But that changed in the early 1980s when the city took over bus service from a private entity and the residency requirement wasn’t imposed on the drivers union, the Teamsters. Police and firefighter unions had “me too” language that secured the same freedom and other unions followed.

By 1999, 19 percent of the city’s 2,850 permanent employees lived outside the city, Human Resources Department data says. Five years later, 30 percent of 2,971 employees lived outside the city, and by 2009, 40 percent of 3,182 were outside the city limits.

Professionals and supervisors sought to end the requirement, but for them, it would have taken council approval. The council refused such a request in 2010.

In 2011, the latest data available, 40 percent of 3,248 permanent employees lived outside the city, including roughly 60 percent of police and firefighter union members.

Until this summer, department heads had to live in the city and non-represented staff in Dane County. Non-represented personnel who lived outside the city but in the county got 1 percent less in longevity pay. But on June 30, Gov. Scott Walker signed a state budget that lets public employees live anywhere they want, except for public safety workers, who must live within 15 miles of the local government they serve.

Curt Witynski, assistant director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, which opposed the state change, said at least 120 municipalities had some sort of residency requirement and that some are also interested in creating incentives for employees to live in municipal limits.

Dean Mosiman covers Madison city government for the Wisconsin State Journal.

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(8) comments

smdevos
smdevos

Good idea.

koshka
koshka

This is a bigger problem than city employees. The majority of those working in the city don't live here. Meanwhile the portion of low income families attending city schools has doubled in the past 20 years. This trend doesn't bode well for the future of Madison. Rather than pandering to developers and creating jobs for suburban commuters, the city should focus on attracting and retaining middle class families.

Billie
Billie

Yes the city should retain its middle class workers.....but they won't. Quite a few of those suburban commuters make a living from providing services to the poor, homeless, etc. They put pressure on government to have more services, thereby ensuring they have problems to fix. They don't care if it drives people away

concerned_citizen
concerned_citizen

what do people want, besides a job?
safe places to walk/run. bike, canoe, eat, good library, music and art scene, short commute, not too many drunk drivers making your family endangered...

and more can and needs to be done about the homeless, the homeless vets, the 10% of Dane County residents that are losing some of their food stamps - today.

Juan Diego
Juan Diego

Most of the police officers and others who have to interact with a certain clientele don't care to live any closer to them then necessary, for the safety of their families and themselves. One police officer friend of mine must drive to work in his own car in uniform each day, so always wears a civilian sweater or jacket in order not to be a target of opportunity.

happydays
happydays

Oh Yeah and the article insinuates in the first paragraph that it's Walker's fault but it happened because of the unions in 1980 - Hmmm -

happydays
happydays

My god - you now have to pay people to live in Madison? Maybe instead of exploring incentives (which I assume is more tax dollars going to city employees) - why don't you make Madison a city they want to live in. Lower taxes, better schools- As soon as my spouse retires - we are outta here - taxes way to high

r212
r212

This.

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