Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Parks Budget Surplus Could Fund Infrastructure Projects

Entrepreneurial department wants to use its rising revenues for this, if board agrees.

By - Nov 30th, 2023 08:55 am
Greenfield Park Golf Course. File photo by Dave Reid.

Greenfield Park Golf Course. File photo by Dave Reid.

Milwaukee County Parks has had such a successful year with its money-making services, like golf, that it plans to invest approximately $1 million in surplus revenue into infrastructure projects around the system.

To date, the department has generated approximately $4.8 million in surplus revenue through golf, food and beverage sales, and recreational amenities like Cool Waters Aquatic Park. Golf is the major driver of the surplus, bringing in approximately $2.5 million more than expected, according to figures from Parks.

The department plans to invest approximately $1 million from the revenue surplus back into Parks infrastructure. Specifically, the funds would go to 10 projects that have budget shortfalls or fell outside of the department’s annual maintenance budget.

Typically, when a department finishes the year with a budget surplus, the funds go back toward the county’s bottom line and are rolled into an account used to pay down the county’s debt. So Parks will go to the Milwaukee County Board in December seeking authorization to keep the surplus funding within the Parks system.

For more than two decades, budget cuts have whittled away at funding for the parks system. The department has a fraction of the staff that once maintained and programmed the more than 150 parks spread across the county. The system also has a massive backlog of infrastructure projects and maintenance estimated to be worth approximately $500 million.

In the face of this, Parks officials have had to get creative and generate revenue to avoid larger budget cuts. The department currently generates more than 50% of the funding it uses to operate on an annual basis.

Golf has been a major source of additional revenue for the department. Golf brought in approximately $10.8  million in 2023, which is equivalent to approximately 25% of the department’s 2023 budget.

Food and beverage sales revenue was $1.5 million more than expected for 2023. This includes concessions at golf courses and special events. South Shore Terrance, alone, accounted for roughly one-quarter of all food and beverage sales in 2023. The revenue generated there was nearly equivalent to the food and beverage sales at all 13 of the county’s golf courses.

Fees collected at McKinley Marina totaled approximately $2.7 million in 2023. Not far behind, though, was the revenue generated at the Mitchell Park Domes. The Domes brought in $1.2 million in revenue this year, exceeding their revenue target for the first time in years. Closures due to the pandemic and maintenance have diminished attendance at The Domes in recent years, and it has been a while since the facility even met its revenue target.

The 2024 county budget will make significant investments in new staff for Parks and infrastructure thanks to the additional 0.4% sales tax approved by the county board in July.

Some of the infrastructure projects that would be funded with the $1 million include relatively small items, like exercise equipment for senior centers or bleacher replacement at the Milwaukee County Sports Complex. Three large infrastructure projects — McKinley and North Point Parking Lot replacements and repair to the McKinley Marine Flushing Channel — will have their budgets backfilled with additional funding from the surplus.

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Categories: MKE County, Parks

One thought on “MKE County: Parks Budget Surplus Could Fund Infrastructure Projects”

  1. Burgelis says:

    Why should the County Exec get extra funding when the department can’t hire enough lifeguards and open pools and splash pads?

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