Weaning Business from the Public Teat

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Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Mayor Chesen’s AD Hoc TIF spending committee gets a haircut. Alderpersons Fesenmaier, Roehrer, and Spellman made a bold effort to close the downtown TIF district next year and thus reduce city of Lake Geneva’s real estate taxes between 12 and 18%. In the final numbers Fesenmaier believes the council has “padded” every category so we have enough to close in 2010.

“It is in the best interest to help people now, (with a tax reduction) not two years down the road. Now is when people need help.” Argued Fesenmaier.

The pro-development gang of Krause, Marcella, and Dunham voted against closing the district early. They were joined by Tolar and Krohn, who indicated they may be interested in closing TIF early when they got the final numbers from the city’s TIF consultant.

The project getting the ax at the beginning was the Geneva Street bypass that would have been rerouting traffic into the Maple Park neighborhood. Nancy Russell spoke against it and stated that previous councils had voted this down. Also the three story parking garage was gotten rid of with only AD Hoc committee member Ellen Kehoe speaking in favor of putting it where the museum is now located.

Downtown parking property purchases of $1.4M and construction of $1M was retained, but instead of its location being behind the Cove, now any location will be eligible.

A forty slip boat pier that was on the list to be placed in front of the Cove was removed. Bob Schroader and Tom Spellman spoke against the location. As Mr Schroader pointed out “you will have problems loading, unloading, parking, you just cannot count all the problems you will have. Add on to the West pier if you have to. Lagoon traffic, gas traffic, it’s a mess now and will be even worse if you put in a pier of 40 or 60 more slips.” Alderperson Roehrer suggested the buoys be set aside for residents sailboats and the slips in the lagoon be used for kayaks.

Alderman Gary Dunham wants to take back the boat slips the city is currently leasing to Gage Marine at the gas pier and the boat buoys that Marina Bay leases and allow city residents on the waiting list to lease them.

Other projects removed were: $250K for underground utilities, $650K for traffic signals and $250K for pedestrianĀ  crosswalks.

Mayor Chesen wants to set up a program to give grants to downtown property owners to improve the alley ways of “blight.” The council set aside $300K for 2 Ā½ blocks to close the alleys.

The downtown will get its own street sweeper in 2009 for $185K and Alderperson Fesenmaier added $200K to replace trees due to the emerald ash borer.

TIF funds will also be used for $100K/year for next four years for “administration,” and $1M put in escrow for “maintenance.”

Currently there is between $5 and $7M in the TIF slush fund with the city is taking in excess of $2.75M per year. After 14 years the city is too finally to close the Geneva Lake Development Corp’s TIF district and put an extra $800K in taxes on the rolls.

In Warren Buffett’s annual report to Shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. he warned that “major industries have become dependent on Federal assistance, and they will be followed by cities and states bearing mind-boggling requests. Weaning these entities from the public teat will be a political challenge. They won’t leave willingly.”

The council approved a TIF funded project to build another bathroom in Library Park for $109K

Original TID spending committee recommendations.