Money Odds & Ends

Developer gets grant for Kenosha apartment project
Silverstone Partners Inc. will receive a $409,500 Blight Elimination and Brownfield Redevelopment (BEBR) grant from the Wisconsin Department of Commerce to help it redevelop an unoccupied and underutilized property in Kenosha County. Silverstone Partners plans to construct a four-story apartment building containing 89 units on a one-acre parcel located at the intersection of Seventh Avenue and 51st Place in Kenosha.

The company will use the BEBR funds to address soil contamination on the site, which was formerly occupied by a tannery. An estimated 80 of the 89 living units will be priced as affordable housing targeted for seniors. The total project cost is $8.5 million. "Brownfield grants help renew damaged or vacant land and provide communities with opportunities for additional reinvestment," said Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle. "I’m pleased that we could help Silverstone Partners Inc. improve the local supply of rental units, particularly for senior citizens."

The Department of Commerce BEBR Program provides grant funds to municipalities, local development corporations, and the private sector to support assessment, remediation and return of contaminated lands to productive use. Brownfields are abandoned, idle, or underused industrial or commercial properties where redevelopment is hindered by real or perceived contamination. For more information about the BEBR Program, contact Al Rabin at (608) 267-8926.

Milwaukee Rotary Club donation will create arboretum 
The Milwaukee Rotary Club will donate $400,000 and leverage more than $3 million in private gifts and public funds to create the Rotary Centennial Arboretum, the gateway to Milwaukee Central Park. The funds will be donated to the Milwaukee Urban Ecology Center and the River Revitalization Foundation An arboretum is a dedicated area planted with many types of trees for study, display and preservation.

Milwaukee Rotary Club president James T. Barry III planned to announce today that the club will make the donations to commemorate its 100th anniversary in 2013. "I am very pleased that Rotary will celebrate its centennial anniversary with a contribution that will dramatically enhance the riverfront and the community – a contribution that is in keeping with our strong history of community giving," Barry said. The Rotary Centennial Arboretum will be located near the Milwaukee River west of the Urban Ecology Center, south of Riverside Park and north of North Avenue.

The arboretum – the first official arboretum in the Milwaukee metropolitan area – will be developed on 4.5 acres of land showcasing native trees of Wisconsin. A Rotary Gate will mark passage into the arboretum, providing a symbol of the club’s commitment to the city, the preservation of natural environments and to the education of children and the community about the critical need to care for natural resources, Barry said.

Ken Leinbach, executive director of the Urban Ecology Center, said, "We are thrilled to partner with the Rotary Club of Milwaukee and the River Revitalization Foundation and Milwaukee County Parks on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to convert old industrial land along the revitalized Milwaukee River into a natural jewel for the city – a living forest classroom that our grandchildren will be able to enjoy and share with their grandchildren many generations to come."

The Rotary Club of Milwaukee also announced today a $100,000 donation to the Greater Johnsons Park Initiative, located in the vicinity of Fond du Lac Avenue and Brown Street.  A 2002 Public Policy Study rated Johnsons Park as the least desirable of all the parks in Milwaukee County – in an area "very underserved" with green space, according to the club.

Fundraising campaign launched for boarding school
Business leaders joined a contingent of local government, philanthropic and educational advocates recently to launch the Wisconsin Coalition for a Public Boarding School. The coalition, which gathered at the Charles Allis Art Museum in Milwaukee, is calling upon state legislators and Gov. Jim Doyle to make a commitment to funding new educational options for at-risk children in the next legislative session.

The proposed school would be built with $30 million to $40 million raised in a capital campaign from private sources, and open in 2011 with a minimal initial state contribution, which would ramp up over six years and reach full funding in 2017. The coalition is calling upon the state legislature to eventually commit $10 million a year to support education and boarding costs for a 400-student school. The proposed SEED school would house students on campus from Sunday night through Friday afternoon.

"Every student can succeed in a college-prep environment," said Jeanette Mitchell, community advisor to The SEED Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit co-founded by a Milwaukee native, which is working with the Milwaukee Boarding School Foundation to bring a public, urban boarding school to Wisconsin. "The broad-based coalition here today shows the incredible range of support we have for bringing a SEED School to southeastern Wisconsin."

Founded by the late philanthropist Marty Stein, the Milwaukee Boarding School Foundation was created prior to his 2006 passing to realize the vision of an educational option for Milwaukee children who need environmental change to succeed. The SEED Foundation has operated the SEED School of Washington, D.C. for ten years and has seen 97 percent of its graduates go on to four-year colleges. "The children in our most challenged neighborhoods need this option, and if we plan ahead, and make it a priority, we can get this done," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

"We need fresh, solid ideas like a SEED school to help meet the challenges faced by our citizens every day," said Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines. "We all know that it’s not just what happens within the four walls of the school that makes it possible for kids to succeed. For some kids, being in a school/dorm environment might be an option that is best for them – and we need to do what’s best for the kids."

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee chancellor Carlos Santiago and Alverno College president Mary Meehan also are supporting the initiative. "This is an idea whose time has come, and it deserves our support," Santiago said. "One thing about the SEED model that is so impressive is the commitment from the day a student enters to seeing that student not only graduate from high school, but to graduate from college," Meehan said.

Former national school principal of the year, Janie Hatton of Milwaukee also endorsed the concept. "The home lives of some kids in Milwaukee, and in other parts of the state, would make you cry," Hatton said. "An option where they could get into a stable environment five days a week, would make all the difference in the world. We should bring a SEED school to Wisconsin."

Philanthropist Dan Bader represented the Milwaukee Boarding School Foundation at today’s launching event. "The Milwaukee Boarding School Foundation is going to ensure that the private commitment to build a school is met," Bader said. "We need the state to step up to the plate and make a public commitment as well."

"Our community needs to get behind this," said attorney Cory Nettles, former Wisconsin Secretary of Commerce. "If we focus on solutions, we can stand united for new, creative solutions." Twenty-five organizations and 50 prominent individuals were announced as charter members of the coalition. More information is available at www.wisconsinboardingschool.com.

Businesses support new IRS gas deductible rate
The U.S. Internal Revenue Service recently today announced an increase in the optional standard mileage rates for the final six months of 2008. Taxpayers may use the optional standard rates to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.

The rate will increase to 58.5 cents a mile for all business miles driven from July 1, 2008, through Dec. 31, 2008. This is an increase of eight cents from the 50.5-cent rate in effect for the first six months of 2008.

The optional business standard mileage rate is used to compute the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business use in lieu of tracking actual costs. The rate also is used as a benchmark by the federal government and many businesses to reimburse their employees for mileage.

The IRS made the special adjustment for the final months of 2008 in recognition of recent gasoline price increases. The IRS normally updates the mileage rates once a year, in the fall, for the next calendar year.

"Rising gas prices are having a major impact on individual Americans. Given the increase in prices, the IRS is adjusting the standard mileage rates to better reflect the real cost of operating an automobile," said IRS commissioner Doug Shulman. "We want the reimbursement rate to be fair to taxpayers."

While gasoline is a significant factor in the mileage figure, other items enter into the calculation of mileage rates, such as depreciation, insurance and other fixed and variable costs.

The new six-month rate for computing deductible medical or moving expenses will also increase by eight cents to 27 cents a mile, up from 19 cents for the first six months of 2008. The rate for providing services for charitable organizations is set by statute, not the IRS, and remains at 14 cents a mile.

Dan Danner, executive vice president of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), the nation’s leading small business association, said his organization is supporting the deductible rate increase.

"NFIB is very pleased with the IRS’ decision to increase the standard mileage rates for businesses from the 50.5 cent rate to 58.5 cents. This increase will help small business owners nationwide that depend on using vehicles to support their businesses.  According to a recent NFIB study, the cost of energy ranks as the second most troubling problem for small business owners, and therefore this increase will undoubtedly help many business owners struggling to afford record high gas prices," Danner said. "NFIB applauds the IRS for acting in a timely manner to do something that will immediately help American small business owners. Additionally, NFIB commends Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) and Congressman Brad Ellsworth (D-Indiana) for urging the IRS to increase the standard mileage rates for businesses. Small business owners, the nation’s job creators, will greatly appreciate this money saving initiative."

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