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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Janesville Amphitheater Proposal. A Gift Or a Curse? That Depends.

I’ll call this a gift of an idea! A proposal not unlike the amphitheater recently written about in the Janesville Gazette. But the main difference is, I reverse the roles of funding and management. You see, with miles of riverfront at our disposal (not really but we can pretend) we would like to have an outdoor music park in Janesville that relies less on government dependency for it’s annual maintenance costs, yet draw in the generous business sector so they can have some “skin in the game.”

So my proposal would look something like this:

Let the area's notorious business club, Forward Janesville, buy the land at fair market value, own it and pay the property taxes, including the taxes, insurance, etc., on the improvements of course. That's very important. The city and FJ could work out a deed restriction agreement in exchange for future proceeds (later in this posting) to make sure the city is the final authority on any possible future property sale or lease agreements. With Forward Janesville's name on the deed, city asset value would remain flat thereby relieving taxpayers of the invisible 6% (apprx.) asset tax the city (.6 x 4.8M = $288,000 tax increase) is entitled to collect from taxpayers.

As a gesture of civic collaboration, the City of Janesville would (maybe) cancel the city's portion of the property tax bill through various forgivable loan abstracts (they're good at that), eliminating about a third of the tab. Anyways, let the city build and pay for the initial costs of the amphitheatre ($4.8 million) property improvements, manage daily operations and keep any proceeds that would payback the borrowing note.

AFTER the note is paid off, proceeds from the property can be split 50/50 between the city's general fund and Forward Janesville. It may take 10 or 20 years for FJ to see some capital return on their land purchase, but they're committed to the community and that timeframe would be similar to that of TIF agreements they promote and surpluses regular taxpayers so patiently wait for.

In return from benefitting from discounted property taxes, Forward Janesville can show a further committment to the community by maintaining the physical features of the property, replacing and repairing structures when necessary, underwriting insurance on the property and care for grass mowing and snow removal ...into perpetuity. Get some skin in game!!

Besides, FJ's "charitable arm," flush in new tax shifting redistributive extractions, boasts millions in excess cash burning a hole in their pockets right now. They proposed the amphitheater in the first place! So, taking care of all the annual operational costs, paying property taxes (oh my), fees, insurance and maintenance on the amphitheater property would save taxpayers money and end city council battles over raising taxes to fund rising operational expenses. That would be a great gift to the city from its business community. The city would own and could lease all advertizing rights for added revenue and hold fundraiser events if there's a shortfall in revenues.

This role reversal of ownership, funding and operational management is a general outline close to (but not quite) being the exact opposite of what Forward Janesville has proposed. And Lord knows FJ's proposal makes it look like the city is getting off cheap. In fact, FJ's media enabler, the Gazette, calls their side of the proposal, "a great gift."

Likely, critics of my proposal represent a small minority of naysayers. I think a silent majority of taxpayers would support this fiscally responsible concept of a sustainable gift to a community in need of one. If you want Janesville to move forward, halt the negativity and rally behind this thoughtful proposal.

NOTE: By the way, I am NOT in support of Forward Janesville's proposal. Not the amphitheatre itself, that's a good idea, but the location (and of course ownership, funding and management roles as described above). It is too small for such a project with homes directly across the street and being tightly locked between the Hedberg library and JPAC.


Anonymous said...

Your idea is a non-starter if FJ or anyone had to pay property taxes on the development, but you bring up hidden annual costs to the city most people take for granted. Thanks for that.

Lou Kaye said...

Thanks for the input. My post is meant to be more of a test, not an actual proposal, to see if their gift narrative, etc., holds up. I also think taxpayers are getting fed up with public/private partnerships that socialize expenses and losses but privatizes the profits annually for the privileged few who put up a one-time capital gift. In many ways, I think the system and our growth models are upside-down.

beakerless said...

Lets not forget the apartment building that JPAC is located in. There are 55 households here at Marshall Apartments who already put up with parking and noise issues from JPAC and this would make our lives a living hell.

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