The Green Bay Packers wrapped up their 2011 NFL championship season last Sunday with a thrilling victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Now the Super Bowl XLV victors are part of a tax battle.
Tax Analysts reports that the Packers are interested in a redevelopment project around Lambeau Field to make it more of a tourist destination. To do so, the team reportedly wants to extend the current 0.5 percent Brown County, Wisc., sales tax that was created to pay for renovation of the historic field.
The added sales tax was approved by voters in 2000 by a 53 percent to 47 percent margin. It's set to expire in 2015.
An economic impact study by AECOM released last fall by the Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football Stadium District says that the county saw $203 million in construction spending, $79 million in wages and $5.8 million in tax revenue from Lambeau Field renovations between 2000 and 2009.
Those are impressive figures, but using taxpayer money to pay for projects, usually stadiums or arenas, that benefit professional sports teams -- and their usually very rich owners -- is always controversial.
You'd think the idea might be an easier sale in Wisconsin where the Packers are owned by the community. But in this economic (and anti-tax) climate, even another championship for Title Town doesn't make raising taxes for the beloved team a done deal.
The current sales tax can't be extended, but the County Board could vote to impose a sales tax increase at anytime. And candidates for the Brown County executive spot (a primary election is next week; the general election is April 5) are divided on extending the stadium sales tax, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
One of the potential county leaders is firmly against any new sales tax, even if it would benefit the home team.
"The taxpayer has paid enough," Andy Nicholson, a nine-year veteran of the County Board, told the Press-Gazette. "I don't believe in another tax for the Green Bay Packers. This community has paid enough. If we have another tax, people will go to other counties to spend their money."
Tim Carpenter, another candidate and current county board member, was not as hard line. He told the newspaper that the half-cent tax "needs to die its natural death. But we need to sit down with that organization (Packers) to find what they want to accomplish (with a development) and let the taxpayers speak."
Let the taxpayers speak. That seems only fitting, especially in Green Bay, where residents who own the NFL franchise should decide whether they want to freeze their sales tax rate or approve a new tax to help develop the area around Lambeau Field's frozen tundra.
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