In a recent article in the GSR, there was reference made to the extravagant TIF spending. It read; “the city’s infrastructure was neglected during those years of extravagant spending”. A reader wanted to know what was extravagant about TIF spending. The word extravagant means more than is usual, necessary or proper. When reviewing TIF spending all three of these words describe many of the TIF expenditures.
Here are a couple of examples:
- Was the $250,000 replacement concession stand by the skate board park (that sits empty) necessary?
- Was the $500,000 skate board park itself really necessary?
Considering that neither was included in either the original, nor in any of the 3 TIF amendments, were these projects done in the proper or appropriate manor? Next to the skate boards park was a tennis court that had been built at a cost of $10,000 and donated to the city. After several years of use the tennis court was in need of repair, so in 2011 the majority (5 members) on the city council voted to spend $230,000 of TIF funds to fix that tennis court, and the one in the Maple Park Neighborhood.
Three aldermen voted against it so it was not approved. In 2012 the same proposal to fix the same two tennis courts in the same manor was brought back to the city council at a cost of $160,000, and it passed. This saved 30% of the cost ($70,000) on the project. It also gives insight into the excess costs and profit often built into most of the TIF projects. The word extravagant has different meanings to different people. For the poor, buying cookies when one needs bread is being extravagant, just as spending money on a skate board park, two tennis courts, and a concession stand, and then neglecting the roads that lead to them, is also extravagant.
Between 2005 and 2012 the city did not repair, replace or fill a crack in any city roads, and then eventually it had to borrow $2.5 million to fix the roads that it had neglected for years. During those years the city was receiving between $600,000 and $700,000 per year from the state’s transportation fund to fix the city’s roads, but it used the money for other transportation related purposes; such as street sweeping and running the street department. Why harp on these issues? It is done to expose them and keep such considerations alive so that the city does not repeat them. Other issues point out the good from the past so that the city does not destroy or forgot what was done with Lake Geneva’s former railway station.