The County Exec. is rolling out his proposed budget today for things like parks, transit, public safety & mental health.
As it has been in the past, the parks budget is once again a disappointment.
Despite the talk about improving inner-city parks – something I've been pushing to get done for years now – the money to do that is coming from a $6 million in capital bonding that was put in the budget two years ago and now instead of being spent to restore the Moody Park pool, is being spread around to other inner city parks.
To be clear, I'm happy that those parks are finally getting attention. The problem is the funding for the plans isn't new, it's money that's been sitting around for two years and had originally been allocated for Moody Pool.
Outside of that, there is an actual increase in the parks operating budget this year of $1.3 million. The total tax levy devoted to parks will now be $24.4 million and to hear the politicians talk about it, it's a huge increase in the parks tax levy and everyone should celebrate with congratulatory pats on the backs.
The problem with that number is it's actually less than the 2011 parks tax levy of $25.3 million. The number of full time "equivalencies" has dropped by nearly 20% in those two years as well.
So despite what you may hear reported in the media today, or being touted by "park supporting" elected officials, the funding problems our public parks in Milwaukee face have not in fact been resolved.
This "budget bobbing" effect has been going on for years and is the primary reason our public parks now face a mountain of deferred maintenance anywhere between $250 and $300 million. Every County Board and every County Executive shares some blame in that fact. And that gets to the heart of the problem our parks face: they're governed by a body that isn't mandated to provide public parks and who only tout their "support" of parks every four years during election season.
If that wasn't the case, then the amount of money elected officials directed to our parks would have increased over the 30 years they've been in control. The fact is that when Milwaukee County Government took over the parks system in 1983, they allocated $41.6 million (not even factoring in inflation) to the parks operating budget.
The proposal this year: $42 million dollars.
That's not "supporting" parks folks. It's kicking the can down the road for an entire generation on one of the most important natural resources we have.