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Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele backtracks on "Pay to Park" plan

Updated: 4:30 p.m. on February 13, 2018

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The "Pay to Park" proposal that had many Milwaukee County residents upset may not happen after all. 

County Executive Chris Abele says after hearing public input on "Pay to Park" he decided to make the change. However, some tell CBS 58 the conversation is far from over. 

Abele says he's instead asking to fill the more than $1.5 million shortfall by tapping into the county's "rainy day" fund. He stressed that charging to park was not something he ever wanted to do, but thought it was a better option than making more cuts to the Parks system. 

 While it was a tough decision for him to make, Abele says it's a temporary fix until the county has the chance to look at alternatives. 

"The reason I suggested that, is that's something that we can do immediately, which will give us more time to look at other options. More longterm solutions. But one way or another, people should be clear that there are fiscal challenges at the county. Until the state is at a more equalized place in the way it funds local government, it's going to be a long time before this problem goes away," said Abele. 

The County Board of Supervisors will still have to approve the rainy day fund withdraw. 

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Posted: 11:41 a.m. on February 13, 2018

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – After strong backlash from the community, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele is proposing to cancel the Pay to Park program included in the approved 2018 Budget.

The Pay to Park plan was approved 15-3 by the County Board and was proposed in order to prevent cuts or fee increases elsewhere in the Parks system.

Abele is now asking the County Board to fill the $1.6 million shortfall in the Parks Department budget by using the County’s contingency “rainy day” fund.

The County Executive says after hearing from the community, he asked his budget team to find ways to avoid Pay to Park. He says they came up with the following three approaches:

1. 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.
2. Increase the Vehicle Registration Fee by approximately $5 per year.
3. 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.

This is a developing story. Stay with CBS 58 on air and online for the latest updates. 

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