Lake Geneva’s tax cut that never comes

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Mayor Bill Chesen wants to go on another $18-30M dollar spending spree over the next ten years with the extra TIF funds the city is collecting from Lake Geneva’s tax payers. The city is collecting an extra $2.77M more a year in property taxes than is necessary. Your tax bill is a full 11-13% higher because of these TIF districts.

About 15 years ago two TIF districts were set up in Lake Geneva. The idea was to increase the tax base by making infrastructure improvements. The city borrowed money and made about $12M in public spending into these two districts.  They could do this if it would promote “growth that would not otherwise have occurred,” according to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

Now in 2009 all improvements have been made, the tax base has increased in these two districts; those being the downtown and the Business Park, and now it is time for the taxing bodies to reap the rewards and bring approximately  $110M in increase assessed valuation onto the tax rolls by closing the TIFs. It is only by closing the TIF districts that the tax payers get any benefit.

But like any government spending program a few people have been feeding out of this TIF trough and they don’t want it to end. They are the contractors, engineers, administrators, and even the banks where the TIF money is being kept. Lake Geneva is rolling in so much TIF money that a “slush fund” of about $5-7M has accumulated.

There is another good reason these piggies want to keep feeding, economic times are tough and will get a lot worse. Earlier this week, the Federal Reserve released the minutes of the most recent meeting of its open market committee – the group that sets interest rates.

The following passage says it all: “All participants anticipated that unemployment would remain substantially above its longer-run sustainable rate at the end of 2011, even absent further economic shocks; a few indicated that more than five to six years would be needed for the economy to converge to a longer-run path characterized by sustainable rates of output growth and unemployment and by an appropriate rate of inflation.”

So who is going help the taxpayers of Lake Geneva?  Mayor Chesen appointed an ad hoc committee made up of the usual suspects – to suggest ways to spend this and future TIF funds.

But how about not spending it and giving it back to taxpayers. A 12% tax cut on our real estate taxes each year for the next ten years would be only civil.

One whole generation of children have gone through our school system with out this money for their education – do you really want to make it two generations?

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