Tyler August, Lake Geneva Area’s newly elected representative co-sponsored a bill which would drastically increase the real estate tax bill for area municipalities. The bills, AB 563/AB 438 Room Tax would have resulted in loss in revenues to the City of Lake Geneva of about $300K annually.
Mayor Jim Connors and City Administrator Dennis Jordan went to Madison, Wisconsin last week to testify at the Bills public hearing about the effect it would have on city services. Mr. Jordan in his prepared statement pointed out the great cost to local residents that tourism results in. The city of Lake Geneva has a year round population of 7500. “The City of Burlington has a population of 10,500 and has 21 full-time sworn officers. The City of Elkhorn has a population of 10,084 and has 15 sworn police officers. Lake Geneva has a population of 7,500 and has 22 full-time sworn officers and 14 part-time officers. Because aesthetics are primary to a tourist city, the City of Lake Geneva sweeps the downtown commercial area at least 4 days a week. Street Department personnel pick up garbage from the City parks on Saturdays and Sundays in addition to their weekly runs. Last July Fourth weekend, the City crews picked up over 7 tons of garbage from containers in the downtown area and City Parks. These services are all necessary because of the impact of the tourists to our City.”
“The main components of this bill is to make those communities that passed a room tax before 1994 give 70% of the room taxes collected to tourism and convention bureaus.” Lake Geneva gives $95K per year to the Geneva Lake Area Chamber of Commerce and rents the building the Chamber is in for $1.year. It would have to give an extra $300K per year if this bill passes. Unlike The Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau or the Milwaukee Convention and Visitors Bureaus whose accounting records are open to the public, the Geneva Lake Area Chamber of Commerce is a very secretive private non-profit and not subject to open records requests. According the IRS, as of May 2011, there was no non-profit legal entity filing tax returns by the name of Lake Geneva Chamber of Commerce or Lake Geneva Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The main funding for the Geneva Lake Area Chamber of Commerce is $95K from Lake Geneva and in 2010 about $280K from Lyons Township where the Marcus Corporation, d/b/a Grand Geneva, dominates. The Marcus Corp. (MCS) had $141.57M in Gross income in 2010. If this bill by Tyler August passes Lyons Township tax payers would have to pony up another $110K. The money would have to be used for “tourism promotion and development,” what ever that means.
The Government Accountability Office reported the main organizations lobbying for these bill are Wisconsin Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus and Wisconsin Hotel Lodging Association.
These bills were tabled for this year but next year the hotel lobby will be back. The Wisconsin Hotel Lodging Association ” is in no way finished, it is merely deferred to early in the next legislative session, where we will not have to let the current legislature’s time constraints hamper us in helping to improve the allocation and use of Room Tax. ” Lake Geneva Chamber of Commerce