We had some "shocking" stories come out locally over the past few days.
In the first "shocker", Fond du Lac County Executive Al Buechel announced that one-million dollars in revenue from the special half-percent sales tax would be earmarked in the 2013 budget to help fund a new aquatic center in the City of Waupun to replace a pool that had been shut down. Buechel admits putting money toward the pool may delay some county highway projects that were going to be funded by the sales tax as well.
Did we in the media miss something? Wasn't the half-percent sales tax in Fond du Lac County supposed to pay for the incentive package offered to Mercury Marine to keep its headquarters and production plants in the area? Remember how the sales tax was needed to "save" the city and the county from economic destruction as its largest employer was on the brink of leaving? I can't seem to find in any story (in our archives or anywhere online) where Buechel or county supervisors touted how the sales tax would fund highway improvements--let alone pet projects like a public pool. (As an aside: I'm sure the highway projects are explained away using President Obama's "You didn't build that" argument that without us building your road, nobody would come to your business.)
Actually, we shouldn't be shocked that a government body found "alternative" ways to spend to spend tax dollars beyond where they were supposed to go in the pitch to residents. I fully expect similar stories in the future when the Lambeau Field sales tax in Brown County--or the Miller Park tax in the Milwaukee area have paid off their debts--yet they won't go away as promised.
Another "shocker" is that the Grand Opera House is far behind in repaying the City of Oshkosh for the quarter-million dollars it was "loaned" for repairs to its roof a few years ago. You may recall, the Grand Foundation was confident that a one-dollar surcharge on tickets sold would more than cover the repayment schedule of ten years. As it turns out, the surcharge isn't even covering HALF of the annual payments.
Now, if it was a private developer that was only paying half of the property taxes promised under a TIF agreement or some revolving loan fund program, certain Common Council members would be calling for workshop sessions and votes on sanctions to publicly humiliate the business person for their slow payment. But because the Grand is considered to be such an "asset to the community", nobody at City Hall is saying "boo" about this.
Again, I guess we shouldn't be "shocked" by this story. The whole idea of the Grand kicking in any money for the roof repairs was just a bone thrown to a few Councillors at the time who felt that NO taxpayer money should have been used for the project. And the offer of a dollar a ticket to pay off the debt was done with a wink and a nod--knowing full well that would not actually cover the promised payments.
So I guess it's time to put the "Taxpayers Get Screwed Again" headline at the bottom of the website--alongside "Dog Bites Man". There really is nothing new to report here.