That stinking pile of road-kill tax called the Resort Area Tax, the RAT, will not be scraped from the road and fed to passing carrion. It lives on, noteworthy for its foul aroma. A tax nobody wants, except those who want to spend it, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Unless there is. The resort tax died at the city council meeting on Monday when Mr. “Your life or your money” Kordus, (city alderperson in charge of heading up the resort tax light brigade) was informed that proposing a referendum to place the issue before the public would be an expensive exercise in political futility. The referendum, no matter what ballot it was put on, would be an ineffectual tool in convincing the state legislature to give Lake Geneva an exemption.
An exemption for what, you might ask? In order to meet state law requirements, a local area must receive forty percent of its revenue (from all business entities in the area) from resort accommodations, devices and resource usage. After very fudgy calculations, the city administration could only blow a twenty-three on the RAT (Resort Area Tax) meter. Only that percentage of Lake Geneva’s gross revenue product comes in from resort activity and income. Ergo, an exemption by the state would have to be forthcoming to authorize the tax. That was it. Cordite Kordus was done.
Except he wasn’t. His new idea is to get together with Town of Linn, Williams Bay and Fontana to submit a group proposal so that all the communities around the lake could jointly amass their resort revenues to meet the forty percent requirement. And Cordite Kordus is no fool. Town of Linn is led by James Weiss (chairman of the town board), and amazingly, Williams Bay is also led by James Weiss (city administrator there). That leaves rudderless, feckless and Little Bo-Peep Fontana to amble along. What might Weiss want badly enough to be brought to the table?
Weiss is wisely fearful of more land being lost by annexation to Lake Geneva. A deal could be struck. Leave us and our land alone and we’ll sign off on the round the lake RAT. Is Weiss smart enough to figure that one out? Without a doubt, especially if he reads the Geneva Shore Report. Would that be a good deal for Town of Linn, and even Williams Bay? Probably. But what about the citizenry of Lake Geneva and all the other entity populations living full time around Geneva Lake?
Is a new source of tax revenue so needed by lake communities that devices such as the TIF and RAT must be used in order to avoid asking the public that question? Are the lake communities not concerned with how their money is being spent a bit more than the fact that there never seems to be enough of it to spend? Are not the major concerns of elected officials in all the communities not ones of providing necessary services first, and then encouraging new development and old renewal by providing service and supply assistance to private entities? There is every opportunity to control and direct those private developers, as the rather magnificent Oakfire Grill plan appears to demonstrate, and the Lake Geneva Theater regeneration likely illustrates. If more tax revenues are to be required, then why can’t taxes be raised to pay expenses incurred after a consulted public agrees they are necessary and for the good of all? The TIF is dead.
Now it’s time to kill the RAT for good.