Green Bay official wants lawmaker to explain plan to dissolve stadium district

GREEN BAY – State Representative David Steffen has yet to present his plan to dissolve the Green Bay / Brown County Professional Football Stadium District to Green Bay City Council, but the opportunity could arise .

Green Bay won’t necessarily be the hardest sell for the proposal – it would be the Packers, who have made clear their opposition to the idea.

However, there are questions to be answered about Green Bay’s role in the event of the Stadium District being dissolved, including how it would pay for its additional responsibilities, such as stadium maintenance, said Jesse Brunette, chairman. of the municipal council. Brunette said he keeps an open mind.

“The last thing we want to do is pass legislation that is harmful to the City of Green Bay, the Packers and our community as a whole,” he said. “There are a lot of unanswered questions. I don’t want to randomly involve the city in something we might regret.”

Steffen, a Republican from Howard, would end the district and its seven-person board of directors, which oversees the Green Bay Packers’ lease at Lambeau Field, and pay taxpayers a portion of the $ 81 million set aside for costs of maintenance of the stadium until 2031..

According to Steffen’s interpretation, the stadium board exceeded its legislative target, which it said was limited to overseeing construction costs associated with Lambeau Field, ensuring that bonds were properly paid and oversee sales tax throughout its life.

Sales tax was abolished in 2015.

Under the proposal, which Steffen says is only a draft, the money set aside for the maintenance of the Lambeau field would be distributed to landowners in Brown County in checks for $ 600. It would also give $ 7 million to other government and private entities, and $ 19 million to the city of Green Bay, which would also get the proceeds of a 10% stadium ticket tax.

The city would then be responsible for the lease obligations now fulfilled by the stadium council. Steffen acknowledged that the city may need to borrow money to meet its obligations, at least in the short term. It might be a hard sell in the city.

“The City of Green Bay has over $ 200 million in debt. Do the city and the owners want to bear more debt? said brunette.

Brunette said he would invite Steffen to make a presentation to the city’s finance committee or the council as a whole.

“Any good idea should be put to public scrutiny,” said Brunette.

Brunette has concerns, particularly over returning the money raised through a sales tax to landowners only, which he says “makes populist sense.”

He is also realistic about how government works. He believes that a mechanism would be necessary to ensure that there is sufficient money for the maintenance of the Lambeau field.

“Typically in most governments they’re decent at building new things, but it’s always maintenance that is one of the quickest things to pull out of budgets,” he said. . “There might be the temptation to skimp on maintenance.”

Just such a mechanism in creating the stadium district counts for the money Steffen offers to distribute.

The Green Bay mayor’s office has not returned appeals on the matter.

Steffen is not on the agenda to address the stadium board at its quarterly meeting scheduled for Monday, but the future of the district and its previous analysis of its options are.

“We were sort of on the verge of revisiting the report because we have so many new members and we want everyone to catch up,” said stadium board chairman Chuck Lamine. “We worked a lot on this at the time.”

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Overall, Lamine takes the perspective of not fixing what isn’t broken.

“I think the stadium district council takes its responsibilities quite seriously,” Lamine said. “We’re lucky enough that a lot of thought went into creating the neighborhood. I think a lot of good work was done at the time to address … long-term maintenance. (Steffen’s proposal) doesn’t does not appear to comply with statutory guidelines given to us, as well as lease responsibilities.

Steffen’s proposal has no support from government officials who have spoken publicly about it, but he said an unscientific online poll he had conducted promoted the idea.

He said 220 Brown County residents responded to the poll he posted on stadiumdistrictfuture.com before shutting it down. This equates to about one-tenth of 1% of the county’s adult population. Steffen said his office had not broken down where responders lived based on zip codes.

Overall, around two-thirds of responses were in favor of his proposal to dissolve the stadium board and restrict how Green Bay should spend the revenue generated from the lease with the Packers.

The view over Lambeau Field from the penthouse of the US Venture Center, the new office building in the Green BAy Packers' Titletown district in Ashwaubenon.

The proposal would ensure the city spends the money needed to maintain the stadium, he said.

“This was probably the most important thing people mentioned. We have a beautiful facility here and it is extremely important that we maintain it as a centerpiece and a destination point. There were concerns that the town of Green Bay would ruin it. “said Steffen. .

The fund that Steffen wants to eliminate was largely financed by sales tax. His plan to give money to property taxpayers would leave out many county citizens who contributed to the fund and do not own any property.

Steffen said there was no way all of the county’s taxpayers could be included directly.

“In 2015, the only way to fairly ensure that everyone benefits equally (from a distribution of excess sales tax) was to return it to governments. I don’t think people feel as much as they would like. The only alternative is through the property tax, ”said Steffen. “I tried to recognize that non-owners are part of this process as well, and part of the money is spent on economic development and some cosmetic programs.”

This approach garnered the least support in Steffen’s investigation. Only half supported “small business grants and outdoor public art initiatives in every town and village in Brown County …

About 80 respondents provided comments, which Steffen said was valuable in drafting the legislation.

Steffen argues that it would be best for the Packers to deal directly with the Green Bay government, but he is also considering enacting certain requirements and restrictions on the city, ideas which he says came from comments from the inquiry. For example, it would require the city to provide annual audits and physical inspections of the stadium, which the stadium board currently does, and it would limit how the city could spend money that exceeds stadium maintenance needs.

“If my bill passes, the law will require that the new revenues (in addition to Lambeau’s maintenance money) be used for the following purposes: road repairs and improvements, law enforcement, taxable economic development and Additional tax relief checks for residents of Green Bay, “he said.

Steffen said there would ultimately be more than enough money to cover the costs of maintaining the stadium. The Packers’ lease with the stadium city and district requires the team to be reimbursed for operating and maintenance costs determined by a formula. The reimbursement is increasing by 2% per year, and for 2019, the year before the stadium was fully used, the payment was $ 13.2 million. The ticket tax provides about $ 7.8 million per year. The city would be responsible for making up the difference, probably by borrowing.

“Funds have been set aside for long-term maintenance through the lease. This responsibility is not going to magically disappear just because all the money is paid back,” said Lamine, the chairman of the board. administration of the stadium.

The Stadium District Board of Directors is made up of three appointees from Green Bay, three from Brown County and one from the village of Ashwaubenon. One of the board members is State Senator Rob Cowles, a Republican who lives in Allouez. He could not be reached for comment on the proposal.

Opponents of the proposal question whether the district can be legally dissolved without the agreement of all parties to the lease, namely the Packers, the Stadium District and the City of Green Bay.

Steffen claims he can legislate to remove the district from the lease stage, whether the other parties agree or not.

The Packers have made it clear that they want the stadium board to continue and the Ashwaubenon Village board members warmly welcomed the plan when Steffen presented it to them on November 23.

“I feel like they like the system they have now,” Steffen said of the Packers. “I don’t blame them. There is very little justification for the expenses incurred. It’s a fairly user-friendly system for them.”

Lamine said the district does not approve spending or allow the Packers to get a pass for things they are supposed to provide, like special events at Lambeau Field. These include NCAA football games and concerts by Billy Joel and Paul McCartney.

“It’s not about ego for the stadium district council. It’s about responsibilities for a very important resource for our community. I think we have succeeded and continue to do so,” did he declare. “It is a question of knowing if the partners are still satisfied? Is the job done correctly and correctly? “

Contact Richard Ryman at (920) 431-8342 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @RichRymanPG, on Instagram at @rrymanPG or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RichardRymanPG/.

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