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‘This buys us a year:’ County executive proposes elimination of ‘Pay to Park’ program

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MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele has proposed canceling the Pay to Park program included in the approved 2018 budget after a very rocky reception from park lovers.

Instead, Abele is asking the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors to fill the $1.6 million shortfall in the parks department's budget via a one-time draw from the county’s contingency “rainy day” fund.

"We can this year, put off paid parking in any of the parks and make up for that revenue out of contingency," said Abele.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele

Abele says it would be a one-time withdrawal. He says it allows the board more time to come up with ideas to avoid paid parking in the next budget year.

"This buys us a year," Abele said. "This is not something we can do every year."

Milwaukee County's 2018 approved budget includes $1.6 million that is set to come from parks parking revenue. Leaders received push-back at public hearings, where people strongly voiced concerns.

"I'm with anybody who doesn't want to pay for parking. I'm with anybody who doesn't want services cut in parks or anywhere else," Abele said.

Abele says his budget team identified three possible approaches to avoid Pay to Park:

  •  Cut $1.6 million in expenses elsewhere in the parks budget. Taking this approach would have meant closing the Domes, Boerner Botanical Gardens, Wehr Nature Center and Community Centers.
  • Increase the vehicle registration fee by approximately $5 per year.
  • Draw money from the contingency fund. The contingency fund is the county’s only “rainy day” fund and is meant to be used only for emergency purposes.

Milwaukee County Supervisor Steve Taylor

"Contingency is there, but you're putting money to the side that we put off for emergencies. He's created this emergency," said Milwaukee County Supervisor Steve Taylor.

Supervisor Taylor represents the county's 9th District. He says the money is a show of mismanagement from the county executive.

"I think he thought this was dicey. 'Let's pull it off the table. Let's give the board some options and see where we're going to go,'" Taylor said.

The next Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors meeting is Thursday, Feb. 15. Abele says if this is approved, it would be a short-term fix to a long-term problem.

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