A major hurdle was cleared Thursday night for the La Crosse Center's proposed new design. The $49 million project passed the Finance and Personnel Committee meeting on a 4-1 vote.
The city says the cost of the project won't affect other services or projects. One of the only questions following a plan presentation from members of the La Crosse Center Board and Gensler and Associates was whether the project could be "tax-neutral", which means property taxes would go unchanged while the city pays off the bill.
For that to even work however, the F & P Committee was told they would have to cut their capital improvement program budget by $2.5 million each year. Currently that CIP budget is at $7.5 million a year, that money is used for things like parks, pools, fire station upgrades, neighborhood improvements and other long term expenditures. Council members like District 9 Representative Phillip Ostrem said that already only 10% of those projects can be approved as it is and cutting the funding was not viable.
"We're behind on so many things already," Ostrem said.
With the city contributing $43 million toward the project, paying off that debt would take 20 years. Total estimated impact for a $120,000 property owner over that period would be just under $1200 dollars.
To make up the extra needed pay the full $49 million and possibly mitigate the bonding impact, La Crosse Center Director Art Fahey says among many options they're looking into selling naming rights and getting possible contributions from La Crosse County.
"[The city] is looking at the bonding piece of it," Fahey said. "We have some other ideas on how to raise some money on there, but that has to up up front money. Several things like naming rights are paid over time, we've got some other areas that we're looking at and you know it takes periods of time to get those kind of payments."
Explore La Crosse Executive Director AJ Frels was the only person who spoke during the public hearing portion. He spoke in favor, saying that the expansion of the new facility is critical to keeping La Crosse competitive in tourism.
"Appleton, Green Bay, Rochester and even Kalahari in Wisconsin Dells are upgrading their convention centers right now and Eau Claire is working on theirs as well," Frels said.
Now past the F & P Committee, the plans will go to the full council for vote Thursday, June 14 at 6pm.