Free Golf For Parks Employees? » Urban Milwaukee

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Greenfield Park Golf Course. File photo by Dave Reid.

Milwaukee County Parks is looking to give its employees a new benefit to thank them for their hard work: free or reduced rounds of golf.

In recent years, golf courses have become some of the most valuable amenities the county owns, at least in terms of the money they generate for the parks department. After more than a decade of budget cuts, the parks now generate more than 50% of its operating revenue each year and golf courses are a big part of that.

Now, the department is looking to provide a new benefit for its workers who manage a massive parks system with a staff that has shrunk in size over the past few decades. What’s more, the department thinks it can offer this as a benefit in a way that doesn’t actually cost the county any additional money.

James Tarantinoparks deputy director, recently told the board’s Finance Committee that the department would schedule these free rounds of golf so that it “doesn’t impact our revenue generation on the golf courses.”

In September, when parks first broached the idea with the board, Tarantino said “Golf has really taken off since the beginning of the pandemic.” He added that the system would likely see about 300,000 rounds of golf played on county courses for 2022, whereas prior to the pandemic the courses would typically see fewer than 100,000 rounds in a year.

“What that means is that our staff are working harder than ever to accommodate rounds, to maintain the facilities, to host events, to maintain the buildings and everything,” he said.

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When he returned to the county board this past week, he said that the county’s Human Resources, Corporation Counsel and Ethics Board had all cleared the proposal. Now, the department simply needs to work out how the benefit will be reported for tax purposes.

Comptroller Scott Manske said that free or reduced gold would be a taxable benefit and anyone that participated in the free golf program could have it added to the top of their income.

super Shawn Rolland said, “This is an investment and the recruitment and retention of our park staff, one of the shortest staffed teams in the county.”

The Finance Committee unanimously approved the proposal Thursday. It will go to the full board for final approval in February.

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