Public Policy Forum Blog

Milwaukee County Parks and Cultural Budget Simulation

Marquette University Law School and the Public Policy Forum have designed an interactive budget simulation game that allows citizens to grapple with the funding needs faced by cultural facilities, parks, and other quality-of-life amenities in Milwaukee County and formulate their own funding plan to address those needs.  The purpose is to promote continued public discussion about recreation and culture and to educate the public about the intricacies of local government finance challenges and options. Our staff has dubbed it the "RECulator" – shorthand for Recreation, Entertainment, and Culture Calculator.

In a December 2013 report, the Forum found that cultural facilities and parks owned by Milwaukee County needed $246 million in capital investments over the next five years. The same report also cited substantial funding needs faced by private cultural organizations — like the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Milwaukee Ballet — as well as major entertainment venues, like the Wisconsin Center. The simulation allows users to learn more about these and other funding needs, along with possible revenue options to cover the costs. 

How It Works

Step One: Propose a Funding plan

First, scroll through a menu of funding alternatives to learn more about specific needs and propose a level of funding for each alternative.

Step Two: Select Revenue Options

Next, there is a menu of revenue options to pay for the proposed funding plan. As in the previous step, information is provided about the revenue streams for users to choose from a range options.

Step Three: Complete Funding Proposal

Finally, the funding package is complete and a new screen lays out a summary of the plan. The plan can be shared with others through Facebook, Twitter, and email. Funding packages are not tracked or stored.


Log onto to create your own funding proposal and join the debate on this important regional issue.   While many would agree that having a robust array of attractive cultural and entertainment assets is important to our region, there is less agreement regarding what should be funded and how to pay.  This simulation game serves as a way to voice your opinion and to share your ideas with others.  Have fun! 

Mike Gavin