Looking on the Bright Side

Cemetery of lost hope.
Where is the last bastion of bad taste erected and displayed for all who travel around Geneva Lake to stop and gaze, and then laugh to themselves? Flat Iron Park just across from where they are going to put in a half million dollars ($500,000) of bushes so exotic even exotic growers can’t put a high enough price on them. What is the latest ridiculous edifice to go up? The one that describes all those who put their heart and soul into building the Bunk Pavilion to nowhere. Why not put up a cemetery marker for the people behind the ‘grassy knoll’ of new bushy stuff at the base of the Riviera? It would make sense. Dearly departed Mayor Jim Connors could be on that one for all time to come. Soon to be departed, if there really is a caring God, Dan “Piggy Bank” Winkler could be chiseled in onto the faces of both sides.

Tax increment financing.
Although the closing of TIF #4 should be applauded, the mad scramble to spend or lock up every TIF dollar that the city can before TIF ends has taken the thunder out of that applause.   What Lake Geneva has done with TIF funds over its life is a distortion of the Tax Increment Financing law. The fraudulent beginning was initiated when Lake Geneva included the two previously approved developments: (The Cove and Meridian Hotel) as being a Tax Increment Improvement qualifying for TIF#4. That artificially inflated TIF #4 taxes to be imposed on local area residents by an extra million dollars every year as soon as The Cove and Meridian Hotel were completed. Since 2014 the City of Lake Geneva has been using its own authority, in blatant defiance of its own interpretation of the TIF rules and procedures. It has juggled money when costs incurred to increase the amount that could be spent by millions; ignored or by-passed the TIF Board’s approval; redefined and expanded what constitutes “blight”; used the “removal of blight” as a TIF project rather than using blight as one of the justifications to present to the TIF Board to obtain its approval. Today the city is in a mad scramble to tie up to spend every TIF dollar that it can, before TIF #4 officially closes its financial doors. The mad scramble of TIF #4 projects (some you may not be aware) of are listed below:

  • Planting and watering 302 Trees $22,650 ($75 per tree). Although the city’s street dept. personnel could do this project, it is being contracted out to Grifford Tree Service, because if the city’s street department did it the work could not be paid for with TIF #4 Funds. The other $106,000 for tree planting was not specified in the meeting.
  • Adding 3 sidewalks in the Dunn Field area not to exceed $7,500 funded by TIF #4.
  • Adding a sidewalk in Flat Iron Park $9,360 funded by TIF #4.
  • Parking Lot: Purchase a lot at 227 S. Lake Shore, building demolition, paving $553,000 fund by $ 393,867 form TIF #4, and $159,133 from the parking fund. This will net 43-to- 53 parking stalls and generate est. ($8K –to- $10K) /year. Note: That does not include the yearly loss of an estimated $8,500 in property taxes.
  • Riviera grounds rehabilitation: $120,115, $100,000 from TIF #4 & $20,115 from the Lake Geneva Beautification Organization.
  • Downtown Signage: $111,387 funded by TIF #4 ($88,630 approved at meeting).
  • Total Wells to Curtis street road widening and related costs $1,220,371 from TIF #4.
  • The $150,000 for the Traver Hotel now includes the demolition of the house next to it funded by TIF #4.
  • The theater grant of $895,000 is funded by TIF #4.

Note: All individual amounts above are subject to change and further juggling by the city, but the total may not exceed $3 million because that is all that is available. Citizens should be grateful that TIF #4 will finally be closed, but like a good flogging, when it ends there’s relief but there’s no real joy that it’s over because of the effect. Certain thanks should go out to all those citizens who fought against the misuse of TIF and TIF funds, and for the closing of TIF #4.

Ed Yaeger and Jeff Wall are among those men, although there have been others too numerous to mention, who fought those battles over the past twenty years. Some of the TIF projects were good, and worth doing, but the real question remains: Were the TIF #4 improvements worth $31 million dollars, because that is what was collected from the taxpayers to fund TIF #4? And that does not include the interest made on that money, or the millions in assessments

TIF Closing

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