Clarke Jr.
Says Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is responsible for the roughly $7,800 "I pay in property taxes per year."  

David A. Clarke Jr. on Friday, January 31st, 2014 in an interview

Sheriff David Clarke blames Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett for the size of his property tax bill

After Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. (top right) aired a controversial radio ad about crime, he and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (bottom right) were interviewed by CNN talk show host Piers Morgan on Jan. 29, 2013.

When some politicians speak, it’s like a whisper in the wind.

For Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr., it’s often more like heavy-metal thunder.

In a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel news article Jan. 31, 2014, Clarke revealed plans to explore a possible run for mayor of Milwaukee in 2016.

The sheriff called three-term Mayor Tom Barrett politically vulnerable and lacking vision. Then he lowered the boom.

"I have 7,800 reasons to be critical of Mayor Barrett," Clarke contended. "That's about what I pay in property taxes per year."

As every Wisconsin property taxpayer knows, when property tax bills show up each December, they show dollar-signs from a handful of governmental bodies.

So, how is it that Barrett is responsible for the entire amount of Clarke’s property tax bill?

That would be some heavy-metal power.

Property tax breakdown

We plugged Clarke’s home address, on Milwaukee’s far northwest side, into the city property tax database to see his latest property tax bill, for 2013.

(Clarke’s spokeswoman confirmed the sheriff was referring to the total amount of his bill. She said he didn't have any other evidence for us to consider.)

The record shows Clarke paid $7,728 in property taxes, a bit less than the $7,800 he said in the interview.

Before about $200 in credits, Clarke's bill broke down this way:

Governmental body

Amount of property tax levied

City of Milwaukee


Milwaukee Public Schools


Milwaukee County


Milwaukee Area Technical College


Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District


State of Wisconsin


Bottom line: The city’s levy accounts for only about one-third of Clarke’s property tax bill.

Even at that, responsibility for the city’s portion can’t be put entirely on Barrett.

In Wisconsin, the governing body of each town, village, city, county and school district, as well as the state, levies the total amount of property tax to be raised. The amount is based on the size of each entity’s budget and how much in property taxes, in addition to other revenue, will be needed to fund the budget.

(The total levy for Milwaukee County, by the way, is $279.3 million. Nearly one-fourth, $66.7 million, is for the Sheriff’s Office.)

As mayor, Barrett plays a pivotal role in how much Milwaukee collects in property taxes. He proposes the city budget and can veto changes made by the Common Council, although ultimately aldermen could override his vetoes.

The Milwaukee mayor also appoints seven of the 11 commissioners for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. But MMSD sets its own property tax levy.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee Area Technical College District board members, who are appointed by county officials, set MATC’s levy. And levies for Milwaukee County, Milwaukee Public Schools and the state are set by elected representatives of those bodies.

Which is to say, Barrett has little or nothing to do with the lion’s share of Clarke’s property tax bill.

Our rating

Clarke said Barrett is responsible for the roughly $7,800 "I pay in property taxes per year."

Barrett has significant influence over how much Clarke pays in property taxes to the city, but that amounts to only about one-third of Clarke’s tax bill.

We rate Clarke’s claim False.

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