Living Here

Budget smudget season. It’s budget time for the Lake Geneva city council and government officials, and here’s Terry O’Neill to give his opinion.

 Budgeting in Lake Geneva likely means “to everything there is a tax, and a fee for every purpose.” In order to reach a balanced budget (which usually means spending every cent that is collected), the city council will be putting their hands in every pocket they can reach. They will tap into resident’s pockets, business’s pockets, tourist’s pockets and even neighbor’s pockets. The City of Lake Geneva is an equal opportunity collector, so whether your pockets are large or small the city will pick them all. The City of Lake Geneva budget runs on a yearly basis and like a person who lives pay check to pay check, they will spend almost every cent and set very little aside for the future, or unexpected expenses. Like a person living pay check to pay check, the more income or revenue the city has, then the more the city will spend. If they run short, then it’s a time to borrow. When revenues exceed necessities, then it’s a time to spend until the money is gone. So will the city council be frugal or wasteful this year, and are the tourists a financial benefit or a financial burden on the local residents and business tax payers?

Let’s look at tourism first: According to the Wisconsin Taxpayer’s Alliance, the City of Lake Geneva’s per capita spending at $1,326 is virtually double that of the surrounding cities of Walworth at $655, Delavan at $709 and Elkhorn at $710. So in looking at the other cities one could expect that if tourism in Lake Geneva was no greater than Delavan or Elkhorn, then Lake Geneva’s per capita spending for city services should be the same as Delavan or Elkhorn. Subtracting Elkhorn’s per capita spending of $710 from Lake Geneva’s per capita spending of $1,326, then we get $616 extra per capita spent for our tourists. With ($616 spent for tourists /per resident) x (7,700 residents) = $4,743,200 spent by residents for tourists). This means that tourism costs the city $4.7 million in extra expenses every year. If the tourists don’t contribute at least $4.7 million towards the city’s tax roll, then instead of residents and businesses getting a reduction in taxes and receiving a tax benefitting from the tourism, the residents and businesses are paying higher taxes to pay for the privilege and inconvenience of giving up our downtown to tourist during the summer months.

Disregarding the $1.2 million expenses needed to run the Lake Front and the parking meters, the two primary tourist generated revenues for the city are the lake front at $1,109,730 and parking at $1,186,208. Subtracting these revenues from the extra expenditures tourist cause ($4,743,200 – $1,186,208 -$1,109,730 = $2,447,262), then one might see that, as residents and business owners in Lake Geneva are paying an extra $2.4 million every year in taxes, licenses and city fees to support the tourist or the City of Lake Geneva is just collecting an extra $2.4 million dollar from local residents and businesses and being extravagant in its spending. So which is it?

Now let’s look at being frugal: There is nothing frugal about the most expensive fire department in the area, and there is nothing frugal about the fire department setting up its own ambulance service to compete with and drive out Medix, and then Paratech Ambulance Services, and planning to staff and expand the fire department to be paid to be on the premises 24 hours every day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. There are other areas and departments in which the city could cut cost but nothing else compares to the extravagant spending for the city’s fire department (except for public works bidding process, i.e. $400, 000 pavilion). In any case, whether the City of Lake Geneva is using tax payers to support tourism, or being extravagant in its spending, the City Council needs to cut spending and local taxes by $2.4 million or explain why residents and businesses have to pay the extra $2.4 million in taxes, licenses and fees over what the tourists, and other residents of similar local areas, pay for their similar local city services.

Water Commision raising rates Lake Geneva

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