Summerfest Runs up Security Bill

It sounds like the taxpayers are getting the raw end of a bad deal.

MILWAUKEE — Summerfest 2019 ended on a sour note for taxpayers, as security costs for the Big Gig exceeded the budget by more than $500,000. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said this wasn’t the first year this has happened; it was actually the fourth year in a row. City leaders said it’s time for a change.

On Thursday morning, Aug. 8, Milwaukee police briefed landlords of Maier Festival Park on just how much the department expected the final total to be: $800,000.


Leaders said in 2009, Summerfest officials agreed to compensate the city for police and fire services when the festival extended its lease through 2030. The negotiated payment this year was $134,00 — only a small fraction of projected costs.

Or are they? It sounds kind of like the costs are being inflated:

Barrett said the cost increase was due to a variety of factors, but not necessarily because more officers were being used to patrol the grounds.

“The costs include the overtime, the fixed costs that they have, and the pension costs that are embedded in this,” Barrett said.

In other words, “the budget is tight, so lets throw as many “costs” into the Summerfest gig so that we can charge them for it.” If the Milwaukee Police aren’t providing any more officers to patrol for Summerfest, then how did costs balloon from $134k to $800k in four years?