West Allis alderman questions State Fair’s cost to taxpayers

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:19 am

A West Allis alderman is asking the city for a fiscal impact analysis of Wisconsin State Fair so he can better understand the total costs to taxpayers during the annual event.

Alderman Michael May submitted a letter to Mayor Dan Devine and his fellow council members Aug. 24 asking for support. The City Council will vote on his request Tuesday.

“Many people have come up to me and told me what a great thing (State Fair) is for the city’s tax base; I don’t think they understand it’s really a drain,” May said. “I’m not looking for an adversarial relationship; I just want to make sure we are protecting our taxpayers.”

May said contrary to popular belief, the state does not pay property tax to the city. He would like an analysis to show how much the fair impacts police, fire, engineering, public works and other costs associated with public safety, crowd control and parking management during its 10-day run in August.

This year’s fair drew more than 1 million people for a third consecutive year.

Rick Frenette, executive director of the Wisconsin State Fair, said May is uninformed.

The fair pays the city an annual fee based on the value of the buildings on the fairgrounds, Frenette said. In recent years, those payments have been $325,000 annually, plus an additional $30,000 annual grant to the city to cover the costs for extra signage and crowd control, Frenette said.
The fair has its own police on the grounds during the event.
The annual payment to West Allis is currently being revisited by fair officials. The fair purchased the Expo Center from the city of West Allis in 2011, so that building no longer goes into the formula of what is owed to the city, Frenette said.

“We pay our fees based on a formula put together by a state statue,” Frenette said.

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