Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Parks Leasing Golf Carts, Making Money

County golf courses will have an additional 46 golf carts, which should pay for themselves three times over.

By - Mar 25th, 2021 12:03 pm
Greenfield Park Golf Course. File photo by Dave Reid.

Greenfield Park Golf Course. File photo by Dave Reid.

Milwaukee County Parks is going to subsidize a handful of seasonal employees in 2021 with golf carts.

The department recently went before the Milwaukee County Board’s committee on Parks, Energy and Environment, asking for authorization to lease an additional 46 golf carts for 2021.

The revenue the county generated from fees and sales at its 14 golf courses grew so much in 2020 that it was a contributing factor to closing the department’s budget deficit.

“Last year was a banner year for our golf courses,” said Jeremy Lucas, parks director of administration and planning.

With the additional 46 golf carts, parks is expecting to generate an additional $115,000 in revenue after the expenses for the golf carts. In 2020, each golf cart leased by the county, on average, generated $3,000 in revenue for the county.

When the chair of the parks committee Sheldon Wasserman heard these figures he said, “Oh, that’s a win.”

The county has an annual structural deficit just from the cost of doing business as usual that was estimated at $16 million in 2020. The amount of revenue the county receives from the state has not kept pace with inflation for approximately a decade. While the amount of revenue the county sends to the state has grown in that time, state revenue to the county has stayed flat or declined each year.

The parks department does not fulfill a state mandated service, and the county has increasingly slim margins with which to fund non-mandated community priorities like parks. Because of this, the parks department has come to operate like a business. The days are long gone that the parks department could expect to rely on tax revenues collected by the county to maintain its budget.

As was the case in 2020, the department’s budget can be made or broken by the revenues it generates through programming. 

During the summer, as budget season was approaching, the department was facing a budget deficit of more than $2 million. A report from the Office of the Comptroller showed this was because of revenues that declined when the pandemic hit. By December, that deficit had been reduced by more than $1 million in the span of a few months and was sitting at $300,000.

CJ Pahl, financial services manager for the comptroller’s office, said this was largely due to increased revenues from golf thanks to the unseasonably warm fall last year. The latest report on the county’s fiscal position at the close of 2020 shows the department had a $3.2 million surplus.

In 2020, Parks used approximately $80,000 in CARES Act funding to employ a number of seasonal workers, according to a report produced by the department. Lucas said the revenue generated by these 46 additional golf carts will be used to cover the cost of that seasonal labor in 2021.

The parks committee unanimously approved the proposal, it next goes before the full board.

Categories: MKE County, Parks, Weekly

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