A Wisconsin state representative on Tuesday recommended dismantling the Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football Stadium District.
Republican representative David Steffen made his proposal to the Ashwaubenon Village Board on Tuesday, recommending an end to the stadium board that oversees the Green Bay Packers’ lease at Lambeau Field. Steffens’ proposal also recommends returning to property taxpayers about $81 million that is set aside for stadium maintenance through 2031.
During his presentation, Steffen said all stadium responsibilities would be shifted to the city of Green Bay, and money set aside for Lambeau Field would be sent to Brown County property owners in $600 checks. Fully $7 million would be sent to other government and private entities, and $19 million would be handed over to the city of Green Bay.
Steffen believes the stadium board has outlived its legislative purpose, as it was initially created to oversee the construction process and ensure bond were properly paid, as well as the sale tax, which was retired in 2015.
"I believe they are misinterpreting the law," Steffen said of the district continuing beyond that date, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette. "They should hang their mission accomplished banner and be done."
By giving the maintenance money to property owners only, the proposal would be leaving out everyone else who paid the sales tax.
The proposal was a dud with the Ashwuabenon board.
"I have not heard anyone in favor of this effort," said village trustee Steve Kubacki. "I think this would be premature to dissolve the stadium district at this particular point in time. I think this was a plan that was put together without input from a lot of other entities."
Steffen said he had not consulted anyone about his plan, which would leave Green Bay on the hook for all maintenance costs going forward.
“In my mind, what you would be doing is taxing the citizens of Green Bay to give refunds to Ashwaubenon, De Pere and Howard. I don't know how you solve something like that," executive director of the stadium district Patrick Webb.
As it stands, the Packers’ lease with the city and stadium board requires the team be reimbursed for operations and maintenance costs determined by a formula. The reimbursement increases 2 percent per year. For 2019, the payment was $13.2 million. A ticket tax provides about $7.8 million per year. The city would be responsible for making up the difference.
If the stadium board were to be dissolves, the sales tax monkey would have to go to the city, a change to the lease Steffen contends could be made through legislative avenues.
For their part, the Packers have made it clear they want the stadium board to continue.
“The Stadium District continues to work well and the Packers and Village of Ashwaubenon support the current structure. The Legislature designed and the voters deliberately chose the structure of a single-purpose, non-political entity to oversee Lambeau Field," the team said in a statement on Nov. 1. "Voters chose to support that specific structure by binding referendum. Sales tax was collected specifically for the maintenance of Lambeau Field through the terms of the lease. It is fiscally and operationally responsible to continue to use the funding for the purpose it was collected.
"The District was not designed to dissolve until it fulfilled its obligations in the lease, which runs to 2033. The District's work is not complete."
Keith Lucius, the village's representative on the stadium board, said he is concerned about the money that Steffen wants to take from the district.
"We live in a time where we see municipalities and government units having unfunded or underfunded maintenance plans. Here we have a situation where we have a funded maintenance plan, so let's take that funded maintenance plan and give it back to taxpayers and have an unfunded maintenance plan? That's what this proposal does."
"If you give that money away, you're going to have to get that money from somewhere, and now it's going to be subject to the process of budgeting and everything else and weighted against everything else in the Green Bay budget and you will lose all your control."