Letter: ‘Maple Leaf’s beneficiary is the Brown County community’

To the editor:

It is disappointing to read about recent negative concerns over the Maple Leaf Administrative Agreement providing that “75 percent of excess revenues from the venue go to the Brown County Community Foundation instead of to the county.”

As a former BCCF trustee, I have been familiar with the community foundation for many years and more recently have been peripherally involved in the Maple Leaf project. With this background, the following are a few points that I believe the public should be aware of:

  • The community foundation is the facilitator for distributing this portion of “excess revenues” to the community; it is not the beneficiary of the funds. The objective is for independent and unbiased perspective on having a portion of tourist industry-generated revenues to help meet community needs by supporting various nonprofits and public agencies working to address these needs.
  • The Maple Leaf is being funded through tourist tax revenues, not public funding. To date, except for preliminary county legal fees (my recollection is about $30,000) needed to determine the feasibility and potential structuring of the project, all financing has been based on the project operations and current and future tourist tax income — not public tax revenues. There is very little risk of this project ever impacting general tax revenues — as evidenced by an improvement in the county’s bond credit rating since implementation of the Maple Leaf financing though private bank loans.
  • Excess revenues do not begin until satisfactory debt service and capital reserves have met and sustained.
  • The community foundation and Maple Leaf will be governed by standard fund agreements subject to national community foundation certification requirements and both federal and state regulatory and tax standards. Funds will be distributed to the community in accordance with these agreements and though the BCCF’s objective grant making process — which, over the past 20 years, has provided over $10 million to support community needs.

As I stated before the county commissioners in public hearings in mid-2017:

I believe the Maple Leaf has the potential to help support the nonprofit community and even infrastructure development while shifting portions of those costs to tourists and others that will be visiting us. I am not aware of any other local economic development activities that have this potential.

This is a project that is being proposed by outstanding citizens of the county, not by outside developers. People that live in Brown County and are raising their families in Brown County. Without a doubt, it is a project that will benefit the lodging and other tourism-related businesses in the county. However, it takes this revenue from added tourism and has the potential to use at least some of it to support our citizens in ways that are not achievable now.

In my opinion, the Maple Leaf will be a major source of economic development in the county without many of the harmful impacts that other types of growth could cause to our bucolic environment.

Respectfully,

Mike Laros, Brown County

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