The Forum's 2002 comprehensive analysis of the Milwaukee County Parks system's condition and financial stability found that by 2000, spending on the parks had declined to two-thirds of what it was in the 1970's. Today's news that the parks department budget may be cut by $4.3 million begs the question: At what point is property tax support for park system no longer sustainable?
At this point, the proposed 2008 tax levy support for the parks department is $21.3 million, an almost 10% decline since 2000, when adjusted for inflation. In fact, the proposed $21.3 million, when adjusted for inflation, is exactly in line with the decline projected in our 2002 report: if the trend is not interrupted, we anticipate tax levy support for parks in 2016 to be $13.1 million. This decline in property tax levy support is an indicator that the county budget puts the parks department ever lower on the priority list.
Milwaukee citizens and policymakers wanting to revisit the notion of dedicated, independent funding for the parks are encouraged to read our 2002 report for an analysis of the options.
NOTE: PPF Pearls are regular blog posts highlighting findings from past PPF reports.