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Increased Funding for Parks Not An Option In Milwaukee?

Many city park systems around the country are faced with increasing deferred maintenance costs to repair or replace facilities. This ranges from neglected Olmsted-designed parks to aging playground equipment, benches and walkways.

One system that embodies this is Milwaukee County, which runs the city and county parks and has an estimated $200 million backlog of fix-ups. A new report from the county auditor, as reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says leaders have “shortchanged upkeep on some of its 156 parks comprising 15,000 acres over three decades, with resulting widespread deterioration except at the system’s showcase venues.”

The report also gives the parks department praise, noting that is one of the best run agencies in the country. In short, the agency has learned how to do a lot with very little.

The audit recommends that the county should consider selling parkland, adding more private ventures in parks and replacing some park facilities with lower-cost buildings.

Nowhere in the report is a recommendation (or even a presented option) to provide more public funding. Ironically, a sales tax dedicated funding parks was approved in an advisory referendum by county voters. The article in the Journal Sentinel indicates that the report did not include this “hot-button” issue, inferring that it shied away from it on purpose (even though it included the very contentious idea of selling parks).

When auditors undertake such reviews, it is necessary to look at all options. When considering that the County system ranks low in funding among its peer cities, an obvious option (along with other solutions) would be more money.

2 Responses

  1. I love this sort of talk… especially in the middle of a recession. Guess what — there isn’t more money. You can’t just keep taxing and taxing and taxing.

    Frankly – I’m tired of constantly being the piggy bank for other people’s wants.

    I’m fine if you want to pay for the parks — institute a user fee. But, to continually tax me & my family for parks we’ve never seen, much less use? This kind of government entitlement thought process is bringing our country to our knees.

  2. I hate to hear the talk iabout selling parkland. Milwaukee’s park acreage-per-resident now is below the national norm. Generations to come will need our parks even more than we do. I belong to two Milwaukee groups that are working to find adequate park funding. I feel confident we’ll be able to achieve this and be able to hand on our still-beautiful 155 parks in fine shape.
    Mary, Milwaukee

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