Whether you are in favor of the Premier Resort Area Tax or opposed to it, the Premier Resort Area Tax is a fancy name for a city sales tax.
The rhetoric about it is deliberately misleading and distorted to promote particular views, and to convince or con residents into believing those self-serving views. To quote one of television’s best portrayed swindlers (Bret Maverick): “You can fool all of the people some of the time and you can fool some of the people all the time. Those are pretty good odds.” This fictional portrayal of “sales” applies to how the Premier Resort Area Tax is being sold to unsuspecting Lake Geneva citizens. Let’s clear the smoke and mirrors about the Premier Resort Area Tax by explaining the city’s dilemma.
The City Leadership of Lake Geneva is promoting growth and expansion because those things increase the tax base. The city collects more revenue from new development and expansion than it spends, thus new development and expansion gives the city more money to spend for a few years. Also, without raising the mill rate which the State of Wisconsin has frozen except for city growth, property taxes automatically go up with inflation, as the assessed values of properties increase. So, does the city need a Premier Resort Area Tax that goes beyond inflation and beyond the benefit from the city’s current growth? The answer should be “no!”, but for at least the last ten years the city has used much of the yearly $1.8 million from TIF #4 to expand its operating expense budget beyond its supportable revenue. It did this by using TIF money to do projects that should have been funded by other revenue sources, thus freeing up that money for operating expenses. Now with the ending of the TIF #4 revenue, the city’s operating costs exceed its supportable revenue.
That in a nutshell is the problem, although you will hear other causes like the loss of room taxes or increased costs to do road repair. But the loss of room taxes was more than covered by the transfer of the quarter million-dollar fire hydrant fee to water bills, and the city already receives around $700,000 from the state’s transportation fund to do road repair, but the city puts that into the general fund under intergovernmental revenue to use for operating expenses. Lake Geneva then borrows money under capital equipment projects to do road repairs. To a large extent, those other issue are irrelevant. The city needs to reduce its spending and to live within its economic revenue, or it needs to increase its revenue to match its spending. In either case it needs to quit scrambling, juggling and commingling its finances and lying about it. Adopting the Resort Area Tax, which is a city sales tax, is the city’s current deceptive approach to increasing city revenue to fund the city’s current spending. If it’s going to do that then it damn well ought to tell the truth about what it is doing instead of playing a con artist’s shell game. The appeal of the Resort Area Tax (RAT) is that non-residents and tourists come to Lake Geneva and spend money here.
If the city has a Resort Area Tax (RAT), then the non-residents and tourist will have to pay the RAT, just like all the local area residents. City management likes the RAT, because it is a triple win for them. Residents, non-residents and tourists will all have to pay the RAT when they spend money in Lake Geneva. Residents, and about half of the non-residents will have to pay the RAT all year long.
Again, your dose of Humor for the Day
from Terry O’Neill
Grandest Place for this Week