Towns with amusement parks and their financial woes.

Wednesday, March 3, 2004 1:08 AM
This has me confused.

Gurnee (Home to SFGAm) has discontinued 2 village events that will save them $70,000. Their reasoning? They are hurting for cash. You can read the article here.

Keep in mind that this is a town of about 25,000 people and boasts businesses such as SFGAm, Gurnee Mills, and a host of other businesses on its western borders.

We are talking a town that is centered between Chicago and Milwaukee. A town that has a major amusement park. A town that has one of the biggest malls in the midwest. A town that has seen massive growth in residential housing. A town that is located in a county that continues to thrive.

But yet, they are hurting for cash. I am not some financial expert or a politician, but doesn't it seem odd that a town of this size with tax generating businesses that most towns would dream of could be in financial trouble?

Besides the article I attached above, the same town has been having problems with funding their schools as well.

You would think that a town with the blessings of places like SFGAm and Gurnee Mills would rid them of any money problems.

Wednesday, March 3, 2004 1:26 AM
You'd think. Then again, it's Illinois, where tax money disappears into a black hole (or someone's pockets) and is never seen again.

Expect Gurnee to soon engage in the time-honored money-making tradition of elevated traffic ticket quotas.

Wednesday, March 3, 2004 10:09 AM
Nope. It's time to engage the time honered tradtition of raising the amusement tax.
Wednesday, March 3, 2004 10:16 AM
Most cities recieve some form of state funding that's been cut as states struggle to balance their budgets.

It's not an amusement park thing. It's just life.


Wednesday, March 3, 2004 10:33 AM
Our town gets its fireworks, four events a year I think now, from local partners and advertisers. I would be offended if my city floated that bill.

I don't know how taxation works up there in Illinois. Here in Ohio, our schools are funded by local property tax and the state (though our state supreme court says this is unconstitutional), and our cities are funded by personal and corporate income tax.

Having worked for several municipalities, the common thread we had was that the councils wanted to keep income tax low, too low, and when they finally realized it was too difficult to run a city on the low amount, they needed to try and get drastic increases passed. Cleveland is 2%, as are most immediate suburbs. Yet my home town was 1.35%, struggling, and the other one I worked for was a ridiculous .5%. It's a hard sell to triple that to meet budget.

It sounds to me that Gurnee is just running a tight ship, which is in the best interest of the voters.

Wednesday, March 3, 2004 10:34 AM
I'm pretty sure Santa Claus, Indiana, and the county its in are doing pretty well. Have you seen some of the schools around there??

Mason, Ohio, is one of the fastest growing areas of the state.

Wednesday, March 3, 2004 10:45 AM
Indiana Schools are fully state funded. Unlike Ohio who relies on Levys and Lottery and a substantial part of thier funding
Wednesday, March 3, 2004 11:07 AM

Ohio schools can use income taxes as well. The property tax levy for schools was declared unconstitutional years ago, but nothing's been done to find another solution.

Wednesday, March 3, 2004 11:17 AM
I'm guessing Gurnee appropriates tax money in a similar fashion as most Chicago suburbs (big chunk of property tax for local schools, much smaller chunk for city operations). The fact that they're strapped could be due to a lot of factors.

The park and mall could be negatively affecting home value, thus affecting property tax amounts (we've seen that thread before). The tax revenue brought in by the park and mall could be largely offset by the costs of repairing and maintaining local roads, and putting additional police on those local roads to handle traffic. And the town's small size could play a role, too. I'm surprised a town of that size would even have a fireworks display.

Wednesday, March 3, 2004 1:56 PM
Or this could be a tactic to cry wolf and say the sky is falling. It is typical of goverments and schools etc to. cut back on items that are popular with citzens so when the citizens complain they later re-instate the spending and then blame these citiaens for having increased taxes. Politicians dont want to prioritize whats important so they play games by initially cutting what is popular but later somehow(ha ha)they find the money.
Dont you think they could go to SFGAm or the Mall and ask them to help pay for these items and the companies get a little good pr form the locals in return.
Wednesday, March 3, 2004 2:04 PM
I disagree there. The things that are popular with constituants are generally not that critical a service, they're just things people can get along without, in the case of municipalities. School districts, in Ohio anyway, can barely get by the way things are now, and it gets really bad in districts ripe with empty nesters and retirees who think that the schools don't need their support since they don't have kids in the distict. That's a damn shame, and they don't realize their mistake until the schools go down hill with their property values. That assumes, of course, that you have a responsible school board (I happen to think ours is pretty good).
Wednesday, March 3, 2004 2:23 PM
Whenever governments are short of cash and "claim" they need more money, there is always talk of less police/fire service or if its schools its the old story of kids being taught in closets or cutting sports programs etc. They throw out the red meat to get people upset so they can siphon more money rather than use the money they get properly and for the benefit of the citizens rather than their cronies who give them contributions.
Wednesday, March 3, 2004 2:58 PM
And since this is Illinois we're talking about, I wouldn't hesitate to be skeptical for various reasons about misappropriation of tax dollars. It very well may be something more innocuous. But, agreed - sounding the alarm about cutting funding for schools and fire departments always gets attention, whether or not it's actually true. If they're cutting fireworks, it's not that bad just yet.

Where I grew up, 20 miles south of Gurnee, we had pretty darn good public schools, and very high teacher salaries. And, in turn, we had a joke of a public library. It seemed to be understood that that was the trade-off. Now that the town's population is older, voila, the public library is getting renovated and adding a second floor.

Thursday, March 4, 2004 12:39 AM

Olsor said:

And the town's small size could play a role, too. I'm surprised a town of that size would even have a fireworks display.

Interesting. I grew up in a town of just 2500 people and there were (and still are) two firework displays every July 4th. Every other small town around that one (with similar populations) also have their own firework shows.


Thursday, March 4, 2004 10:42 AM
Well, Ohio also uses Lottery money to fund school system as well. I live in a school district where they tried to pass $11.8 million levy. Considering that that will increase property tax by nearly $600 per year on $150K house, it was overwhelmingly rejected. This increase was on top of $200 year ago and $300 two years ago with 1% hike in state sale tax and $0.02 in gasoline tax. Why do you think people get tired and get cynical about tax, tax, tax?
Thursday, March 4, 2004 11:20 AM
Levies are raised in mils, not millions of dollars. Even the press (who should know better) doesn't get that. $11.8 million won't buy much.

The thing that people in growing Ohio communities overlook though is that the milage for levy decreases over time because the burden is spread out across more property owners. When Medina City Schools, for example, needed to build a middle school, the issue was for I think 3 mils or something like that, and in its last year was .5 mils.

And the lottery doesn't add much to funding schools.

Thursday, March 4, 2004 12:28 PM
Actually it's "mills." And you can't really blame the schools for doing ridiculous things like asking for 11.8-mill levies and bond issues. They need the cash (or more buildings, in the case of the bond issue), and they're pretty much handcuffed when it comes to raising that money. Their only option, really, is to ask for levies that are small enough that people will pass them - but force them to come back once or even twice a year. I know of at least two Central Ohio school districts who told voters before the election that they'd be back in November, regardless of the results.
Thursday, March 4, 2004 12:49 PM
Not true... a mill is at a stream. :) Seriously, Google for somethink like "ohio school levy mil." Its technical English definition is 1/1000 of a pound, but you know, we use dollars here.

I've campaigned for a lot of school levies when I worked for a district, and in my case it was in a town that people moved to for good schools. Ironic then that they would freak out when you need to pass a construction levy because there isn't enough room for their kids, and then an operating levy because there isn't enough money to hire teachers for their kids. At least in our situation we researched up front when the district would stop growing, and knew exactly how many buildings we'd need before build-out.

Thursday, March 4, 2004 1:26 PM
When the district with one of the highest property tax in the state asks for 20% increase in property tax, what do you think people will say? Do that for 3 straight years. You end up with empty nesters moving away and bring more kids into the district. There is no doubt that money is needed in growing areas. However, these new houses will be assessed with tax also. If school system works with people by fully disclosing financial statements and work out a solution to money crunch, they will have much better chances of passing the levies. I support school systems and volunteer for their services. However, just keep on asking to increase property taxes will not work as well. Lottery revenue is small (about 5 to 7% as of 2000), but they are voluntary.
Thursday, March 4, 2004 1:44 PM
From my Webster's:

mill - one tenth of a cent.
mil - a unit of currency equal to 1/1000 of a pound.

So it's mills we're talking about here.

But you're right about the irony. People seem to forget that good schools, like most good things, cost money.

Smart districts have 5- or even 10-year plans worked out, with growth projections and when they'll need to build. When people say no to a bond issue, it throws a monkey wrench into those plans. Even though I live in the generally bad Columbus Public school district, I've vowed to vote "yes" on every single issue the schools come up with, unless it's obvious that it's poorly put together or there's corruption involved.

If you can afford a house, you can afford to pay the schools (and if you can't, maybe you bought too much house).


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