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County not ready to give money to La Crosse Center

Brad Williams

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Don’t expect La Crosse County to provide funding for the La Crosse Center expansion project very soon — at least not before November.

County Board chair Tara Johnson said supervisors are not ready to make a money commitment to the center before the 2020 budget discussions.

Johnson was hoping that the civic center work could be used as an incentive to revive the premier resort tax idea (PRAT) for the county, but she said Madison isn’t showing any support for it.

“The PRAT is dead right now,” Johnson told the County Board on Monday night.

The PRAT is a half-percent sales tax on most good sold in La Crosse County.

The special tax has been supported by voters in two referendums, but it needs legislative backing to become reality.

Here’s the 16-page document on what the PRAT is and covers, exactly. Below is a list of of businesses it would affect.

Here’s how it was worded on the ballot:

If the La Crosse County Board finds it necessary to increase local spending on roads and bridges due to insufficient state and federal funds, do you support pursuing the enactment of a Premier Resort Area Tax (PRAT) of 0.5 percent as a sales tax on tourism-related goods and services as defined in state law? This option is estimated to raise $6.6 million per year, of which $1.6 million will be shared with the cities, villages and towns for their transportation needs.

If the county ever does get a PRAT, supervisors believe it should only go toward funding road repairs and not be expanded to help out the La Crosse Center.

County administrator Steve O’Malley is still upset that the city didn’t include La Crosse County in planning for the project until it wanted money.

O’Malley said the city doesn’t want to wait for a possible PRAT to be approved.

Andrea Richmond, who sits on both the County Board and city council, said adding a seat on the La Crosse Center board for a county representative should be “a simple thing.”

BUSINESSES AFFECTED BY PRAT
5311 – Department stores
5331 – Variety stores
5399 – Miscellaneous general merchandise stores
5441 – Candy, nut and confectionery stores
5451 – Dairy product stores
5461 – Retail bakeries
5499 – Miscellaneous food stores
5541 – Gasoline service stations
5611 – Men’s and boys’ clothing and accessory stores
5621 – Women’s clothing stores
5632 – Women’s accessory and specialty stores
5641 – Children’s and infants’ wear stores
5651 – Family clothing stores
5661 – Shoe stores
5699 – Miscellaneous apparel and accessory stores
5812 – Eating places
5813 – Drinking places
5912 – Drug stores and proprietary stores
5921 – Liquor stores
5941 – Sporting goods stores and bicycle shops
5942 – Bookstores
5943 – Stationery stores
5944 – Jewelry stores
5945 – Hobby, toy, and game shops
5946 – Camera and photographic supply stores
5947 – Gift, novelty and souvenir shops
5948 – Luggage and leather goods stores
5949 – Sewing, needlework, and piece goods stores
5992 – Florists
5993 – Tobacco stores and stands
5994 – News dealers and newsstands
5999 – Miscellaneous retail stores
7011 – Hotels and motels
7032 – Sporting and recreational camps
7033 – Recreational vehicle parks and campsites
7922 – Theatrical producers (except motion picture) and miscellaneous theatrical services
7929 – Bands, orchestras, actors, and other entertainers and entertainment groups
7948 – Racing, including track operation
7991 – Physical fitness facilities
7992 – Public golf courses
7993 – Coin-operated amusement devices
7996 – Amusement parks
7997 – Membership sports and recreation clubs
7999 – Amusement and recreational services, not elsewhere classified

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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