Proposed sales tax would help improve PdC streets, opponents see it as unfair

meeting
Over a lunchtime meeting Thursday, Prairie du Chien City Administrator Aaron Kramer explained and took questions about the proposed Premier Resort Area Sales Tax to a room full of mostly business owners opposed to the tax. (Photo by Correne Martin)

By Correne Martin

The message became clear at two public meetings Thursday. An added 0.5 percent sales tax in the city of Prairie du Chien may be necessary in order for improvements to be made to the deteriorating streets. However, business owners and concerned citizens expressed their fears and frustrations with “yet another tax” that some feel is unfair.

“Our problems are not going to fix themselves. We need to fix the streets, and to do that, we’re going to have to find other revenue,” City Administrator Aaron Kramer said. “We’re at our limit with property taxes. Other than that, it’s budget cuts or borrowing, or we just let the streets continue to deteriorate.”

“What do you want me to do?” Kramer asked both audiences.

The proposed Premier Resort Area Sales Tax would apply to tourism-related businesses. In addition to the current 5.5 percent sales tax, which includes 0.5 percent imposed by Crawford County,  this would potentially boost the local sales tax to 6.0. According to Kramer, a Vierbicher Associates analysis has determined that two-thirds of this additional sales tax would be paid by non-city residents.

The earliest this tax would be enacted would be April of 2014. The bill has to be introduced by local lawmakers in Madison first and eventually come before the Prairie du Chien Common Council before the sales tax can be imposed.

“The premise of it is, the items that are proposed under this tax—streets, roads, sidewalks, police and fire equipment—would be paid for by these small businesses through their property taxes, or by this sales tax. The majority of those (non-city residents) who would pay this proposed tax wouldn’t be paying property taxes in our city to start with,” Kramer noted.

Though no alternatives were suggested by either the noon or the 6 p.m. crowd Thursday, the majority in attendance were opposed to the proposed tax. They said, despite the percentage being just 0.5 percent, an added tax may affect consumers “psychologically,” causing them to go to Bridgeport or Iowa to shop.

One business owner said this would put Prairie du Chien businesses at an uneven playing field against Bridgeport businesses, in particular.

“This is making all of us work harder to maintain our customer base,” another business owner stated.

A third business owner added: “As small business owners, we have a budget that we have to stick to. We can’t raise taxes when we get into trouble. We have to find a way to make it work.”

Thursday’s discussions were civil for the most part, although emotions were clearly running high. Those opposed to the tax feel they’re already paying enough, or in some cases “too much” for items such as boat fees and water bills in Prairie du Chien. Yet, those in acceptance of the tax believe it’s necessary so that the city’s streets and other infrastructure can be fixed or improved.

According to the public works department, the city would look at repairing some of its worst streets first. This would be a partial list of some of the projects proposed if the sales tax went into effect:

1. Mill/overlay and sanitary sewer
    Broadway, Marquette to 13th
    Brunson, Marquette to 13th

2. Mill and overlay
    North Main, Washington to Frederick (included in 2014-2016 capital budget)
    Campion, Marquette to 15th
    East Webster, Marquette to the end
    Villa Louis Road

3. Total reconstruction (Sewer, water and storm sewer included)
    North Michigan, Blackhawk to Washington
    Ohio Street Crawford to Washington

4. Other projects
    Washington Street lift station
    Broadway Street lift station
    Sidewalk replacement/installation program, based on rating

The proposed Premier Resort Area Sales Tax, if approved, would be a five-year tax, meaning it would have to be reconsidered by a common council vote after five years in order for it to continue.

To see a copy of the proposal and a list of the businesses subject to the tax, visit the city’s website, prairieduchien.info, or contact Kramer at 326-6406 or akramer@prairieduchien-wi.gov. Also, to view a copy of the city’s budget, contact Kramer.

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