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April 22, 2014 | 02:23 PMSome unfinished business lingers, and Mayor Jim Connors said he wanted another term to make sure those loose ends are tied up.
“For all the challenges we have,” Connors said in a recent interview on his decision to run for another term. “I want to make sure that parking gets on the referendum and make sure the public gets to do what it wants to do.”
Connors’ day job is vice president of Dalco Metals in Walworth.
He and his wife, Lynn, 320 Oakwood Lane, have two sons, one of whom will graduate from the University of Wisconsin, and one who will graduate from the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. They also have a daughter who will graduate from Badger High School this year.
Connors, who won his first term in a contested race, didn’t have to face a ballot challenger in the last two mayoral elections.
Like others who ran in this year’s municipal election, Connors said he was unpleasantly surprised by the lack of interest.
“I’m a little disappointed in general that there weren’t more people running for office,” he said. “I don’t miss putting out campaign signs,” he said of his own solo race. On the other hand, he said, he “lost a lot of weight going door-to-door” in his first campaign for office.
Four years ago, when running for mayor for the first time, Connors said that a quick way to cut taxes was to close the Tax Increment Finance district.
Connors said he made that statement without four years of hindsight. Sometimes, candidates want to change things, and don’t realize all of the effects of that change, he said.
That’s not to say the TIF district may not be closed early, but just not yet.
“I’d like to see it open until the parking structure discussion is settled,” he said.
He said the major problem with the TIF district is that the city developed a plan for use of the TIF funds, and then some city councils failed to act on the plan. “We owe it to the taxpayers to complete the projects in the (TIF) fund,” Connors said.
Without council action, the district will close in 2017, with outstanding projects to be completed by 2022.
And while the TIF district’s equalized assessed value has increased by about $90 million since the TIF district was created, loss of TIF funds means less money for city improvements and infrastructure.
Meanwhile, the city is looking at ways to increase revenues to continue to maintain its streets and public buildings.
All told, Lake Geneva gets about $100,000 a year in state shared revenues, a very small part of the city’s $6 million general fund budget.
That amount has been unchanged over several years, Connors said, and he doesn’t expect it to increase significantly in the near future.
What Connors and some other city council members are looking at is getting the city declared a premier resort city or as part of a premier resort area, which would give the city certain advantages, such as being able to go to referendum to impose a sales tax to help pay for infrastructure.
The city of Wisconsin Dells pulled in $1.5 million through a premier resort sales tax last year, and the Lake Delton area brought in about $4 million, Connors said.
The difficulty is that the state Legislature must designate a town, village, city, county or zone a premier resort area, and our local legislators do not currently support that designation for the city or the area, Connors said.
Tourism is very important to the city, Connors said. It provides regular employment for residents and summer jobs for students. It also brings in the dollars necessary for commerce.
“I think we have one of the healthiest downtowns in the county,” Connors said.
For those who claim that the people will come for the lake alone, Connors had a reply.
“It’s easier to maintain what you have in place,” he said.
If things run down, it becomes harder to bring them back.
And there’s more competition for tourist dollars now, Connors added. Communities around Wisconsin are starting to advertise their unique attractions in hopes of cutting a slice of the tourism pie.
“Things change,” Connors said. “The train hasn’t come to Lake Geneva in 40 years.”
Connors said the city staff is also working to streamline things and working smarter, not harder. He said he also wants the city to provide more information for residents through its website.
“Overall, we’ve got really great staff,” he said.