You can also read this post about why 30 years of County governance hasn't worked for more detail.
Unfortunately not all of the details of the plan got included. Here are a few facts about how a parks commission/district would work in Milwaukee:
• A Park Commission would be created by resolution of municipal or county governments or by referendum, triggered by citizen petition.
• A 9 member elected, non-partisan, non-paid board of park commissioners would govern a Parks Commission.
• The commission board would be elected from population equivalent, geographically distinct election districts that reflect the ethnic diversity of the community they serve.
• Board members would be elected to three-year staggered terms to ensure that only one-third of the board would change with any election to maintain consistency in park management policies
• The board would set policy on appropriate park uses as well as budget priorities.
• Being part-time and non-paid, the board members would meet at night, taking full advantage of the public’s input on important park decisions.
• No new tax would be necessary to fund a Park Commission as the authority to impose property taxes for park operations would merely be transferred, at the existing funding level to the Park Commission.
• To assure that there is no increase in tax burden due to the Park Commission’s creation, the initial Park Commission levy (set by the previous year’s expenditure limits) must be offset by a corresponding decline in the County tax levy.
• As a unit of local government, a Park Commission will be subject to the current statewide property tax freeze which may be exceeded by referendum.
• Existing park employees would be transferred to the new Park Commission, with any existing union representation and collective bargaining agreements. Upon expiration of a CBA, the Park Commission would negotiate new conditions with union representatives.
• All Park Commission employees would be included in the Wisconsin Retirement system, currently utilized by nearly all local governments in the state.
From its inception in the early 1900’s through the early 1980’s, public parks throughout Milwaukee County were under the governance of a “Milwaukee County Parks Commission”. The commission oversaw the golden age of public park development in Milwaukee County. In 1982 governance of public parks in Milwaukee County were transferred from the Parks Commission to Milwaukee County Government.
As a result of being in competition for property tax dollars with mandated State services such as law enforcement, courts and human services, the Milwaukee County Parks system has seen a decrease in funding, an explosion in the amount of deferred maintenance ($200-$300 million) and has slipped from generally acknowledged as one of the best parks systems in the Country to one of the poorest.
I believe that the change in governance structure that put Milwaukee County in charge of public parks in Milwaukee County needs to be reversed and a Park Commission (commonly known as “Parks District”) should be reinstated to fulfill the generational responsibility citizens have to their public parks. This is not a new idea. On the contrary, most other major municipalities rely on a park district governance model with success.
There are of course many more details that will be shared soon. This is something our parks need and deserve. 75 years of parks commission governance worked. 30 years of Milwaukee County governance hasn't.
It's as simple as that.