Racine lawmaker says residents tired of paying for Miller Park

RACINE COUNTY (WITI) -- Racine County, one of the counties in the Miller Park Stadium District wants out.

The Miller Park Stadium District is comprised of Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Washington and Waukesha Counties.

The District has been charged with the oversight and monitoring of planning, financing, designing, constructing, commissioning, operating and maintaining Miller Park.

The District is managed by an appointed Board of Directors comprised of thirteen individuals representing the five county area.

Miller Park is Milwaukee's biggest party spot. Just ask any of the thousands of tailgaters who flock to the stadium every summer -- but taxpayers in Racine County are ready for the sun to set on at least one part of the shared experience.

"At a certain point, Racine residents are asking how much longer they're going to have to pay for a stadium in Milwaukee," Rep. Cory Mason (D - Racine) said.

Mason is introducing the so-called "Enough is Enough" bill, which says the Miller Park Stadium District "may not collect a tax" from Racine, starting this summer.

Miller Park Stadium District Executive Director Michael Duckett declined to go on camera, but says: "Racine is a valued and appreciated partner" in the Miller Park Stadium District.

"I'm sure they do, and it's a great partnership for them, right? They get $2 million from Racine County, but the question I'm raising is, 'what's Racine County getting out of it?' And, for 18 years, it seems the answer is, 'not much,'" Rep. Mason said.

In 1996, the Wisconsin Legislature approved a .01% sales tax increase in five southeastern Wisconsin counties to fund the construction of Miller Park.

That averages out to somewhere between $9 and $11 a year per person.

Last year, the Miller Park Stadium District took in $26 million, and $2.3 million came from Racine.

"Our community has the highest unemployment in the state in the city of Racine, we've got real infrastructure needs of our own. We're closing schools in Racine. Clearly that money could be better spent in Racine County, and not on a stadium in Milwaukee," Rep. Mason said.

45% of Miller Park's visitors come from outside the five-county area, and officials argue some of that money passes through Racine.

"I think that's a stretch. I think if you asked Racine residents, they'd rather keep that $2 million right in Racine County," Rep. Mason said.

The tax was supposed to sunset this year, but could be extended until 2020.

Taxing district revenues have fallen below earlier projections due to a weak economy.

Duckett says: "We're not collecting more money -- it's just taking us longer to collect the same amount of money."

"My concern is the Stadium Board seems to put the sunset on the tax further and further down the line, so you have Racine residents saying 'when are we going to be done paying for a stadium in another community?'" Rep. Mason said.

Duckett says the next "sunset" projection will be out in mid-March of 2014.