Monday, October 26, 2015

Packers did it best when it came to stadiums, too

Steven Walters has an interesting "compare and contrast" article discussing the various ways of funding the arenas for Wisconsin's 3 major league sports franchises over the last 20 years.

First of all, let's go over the total numbers that went into all three of these projects, and not just the initial costs, but the added interest that goes to pay off that debt.
In 2001, the Professional Football Stadium District issued $174 million in bonds to remodel the stadium and pay other costs – bonds that were paid off earlier this year. The [0.5%] surtax raised a total of $300.3 million to pay off the principal and interest costs of those bonds, according to Revenue Department figures.

About $259 million in bonds were issued to build Miller Park. The Journal Sentinel estimated they will cost a total of $395 million to pay off, which will not occur until sometime between 2018 and 2021.

Elected officials used 20-year payoff estimates for the $250 million in public funds to pay half of the Bucks arena. But no one knows exactly what 20 years of payments will ultimately cost state and Milwaukee city and county taxpayers.
Walters also notes that Brown County voters approved of the 0.5% Lambeau sales tax in a 2000 referendum, while the only election that happened with Miller Park was the recall election that resulted from one state senator changing his vote to allow the bill to pass. The voters also didn't get an up-or-down decision on the new Bucks arena, and the Bucks arena is the only one of the three projects that do not have an additional sales tax associated with it (the Wisconsin Center's current 0.5% sales tax on restaurants in Milwaukee County is merely redirected to the Bucks arena).

Walters also mentions there will likely end up with a tax refund on the Lambeau Field project totalling $17 million, which will be distributed to all local governments throughout the county. This will be finalized with the State Assembly's vote tomorrow on a bill which directs the excess money from the Lambeau Field sales tax to go to
a segregated account established and controlled by the municipality to use only for the purpose of providing property tax relief, tax levy supported debt relief, or economic development. A municipality may not make expenditures from the segregated account unless the municipality's governing body adopts a resolution specifying the purpose for which the revenues will be spent and the amount of the revenues to be spent for that purpose.
By comparison to Brown County with Lambeau, the City and County of Milwaukee are going to shell out funds for the Bucks arena for nearly 3 years, with no guarantee of the development occurring that would allow for some kind of payback in that investment. This uncertainty was why I mentioned in July that there should have been a 0.25% countywide sales tax to pay for the Bucks arena. I theorized the sales tax would be more effective in raising revenue for the arena, and also gave an immediate payback to those local governments to pay off their share of the project.

So when I size up the various packages that went into the state's 3 pro sports arenas, it seems like the Packers did things the right way when it came to financing, and in being the only ones to go to the voters to get the funding approved. Now, the Lambeau project is completely paid for, and Brown County taxpayers are in line to get a nice one-time tax break. There also doesn't seem to be the bitterness in Titletown that you still see in parts of Southeastern Wisconsin that exists toward the Bucks and Brewers' respective projects.

Maybe there's a lesson to be learned out of this when it comes to discussing if the public should pay for the next big-time facility that'll be located in a specific part of the state.

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