Budget deficits, the Riviera and the cost of parking were among other topics covered during a Jan. 25 candidate forum in the race for Lake Geneva mayor.
Here are some issues discussed by candidates Al Kupsik, Tom Hartz and Charlene Klein.
Should the city raise parking rates to fix budget shortfalls?
Hartz said no. He said parking meters are meant to keep cars moving, not to raise city revenue.
“I would reduce the cost of the parking meters. I would make sure that whatever money was raised stayed in the parking fund and did not go to the general fund,” he said.
Klein agreed with Hartz.
“I, too, would be against raising parking rates, and I think we have to take a strict look at our budget and our expenditures and see where we can hold the line,” she said.
Klein said she would favor expanding free parking for those with resident stickers to four hours from the current two hours.
Kupsik had a question. Where would the city find revenue?
“From my end, being the mayor, I look at it this way. We have three means of revenue: the beach, parking and taxes,” Kupsik said.
If the city cut back parking fees and the cost of beach passes, he said: “That leaves us with only one other revenue source, and that’s taxes. And being a citizen, I don’t want to see my taxes increase for revenue sake.”
How would you fill city budget deficits?
Klein said Lake Geneva’s budget of almost $9.5 million is large for a city of 7,800 people. She said she would look at the budget for economies.
“I come from a farm family, and we don’t waste anything,” she said. “We don’t waste our food, and we especially don’t waste our money. So I think we need to take a real hard look at what we’re doing budget-wise.
Hartz mentioned one possible additional revenue source.
“Some of what we need is infrastructure repair,” he said. “There’s a vehicle that I think we should look at, and that’s a premier resort tax,” he said. “Currently, I believe there are seven or eight communities in the state that have it — that’s a sales tax. People who are shopping are the ones who pay it.”
Kupsik restated that the city has only three existing sources of revenue.
“In order to fill some of the gaps, we depend on the revenue that we get from the parking, that we get from the beach and our taxes,” he said. “And unless we find a way to get other revenue, there aren’t many choices to go to.”
As the Riviera is repaired and renovated, would you favor changes to the use of the Riviera?
Kupsik said the city should concentrate on making the Riviera useful more often rather than just on weekends.
“It is a destination for a lot of receptions and weddings, and I think that will always be,” he said. But, he added, he wants to make the building “more functional.”
“I would like to see something in that building every day,” he said. “I would like to see a farmers market, I would like to see sales, some retail, whatever it takes.”
Hartz said the city needs to change how it looks at the building.
“I think that it could be an event space all week long,” Hartz said. “That would mean having a commercial kitchen in there, not a warming kitchen, and creating bathrooms that are functional and well used.”
Hartz also suggested that the first floor, now an arcade of small shops, might be changed.
“Perhaps we open that area up and it becomes just one big store or one big restaurant,” he said.
Klein said that the Riviera is an iconic structure and repairs need to follow the direction of the state historical society, because it is a historic building.
Referring to architects currently being considered, she said: “We’re sure they’re going to have some concepts on how this space can work and what has to be done there to retain the structure and the historic aspects of the building.”