The Sturtevant Village Board and Racine Unified School District (RUSD) administrators sparked over a payment program Tuesday the village wants in place as it moves to grant a conditional use permit to the REAL School.

RUSD bought the Sportsplex in 2016, and is moving the REAL School charter school there for up to 525 students and 33 teachers.

After presenting the design plan to the village plan commission last week, the REAL School and RUSD administrators addressed the boards concerns Tuesday. The village is concerned about the loss in property tax revenue they will see now that their 13th largest source of tax revenue, the Sportsplex, is becoming a tax-exempt entity.

Sturtevant wants Racine Unified To Pay For Lost Revenue

The Sturtevant Board suggested, once again, that RUSD agree to do a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) because that would ease the loss of tax revenue Sturtevant sees from this deal.

Despite the argument, which was heated at times, everyone on the board maintained they like what the REAL School offers and are excited to see it go in.

Village President Steve Jansen said the board will submit a proposal to RUSD for PILOT, but, “It’s not a deal killer of course.”

In March of 2016, when the district was considering purchasing the property from its previous owner, the board broached the topic of a PILOT program with them.

“It was the first thing that came out of our mouths,” said Trustee Jayme Hoffman.

Racine Unified Not Open To Payment

During the plan commission meeting, RUSD COO David Hazen asked the board for something in writing to present to the board and the district’s lawyers. He told Racine County Eye that the and the district have been consistent in their stance that they cannot do a PILOT.

“We can’t use tax dollars to pay taxes,” said Superintendent Lolli Haws.

Still, several on the board see a for profit business attached to the new real school, in the form of the Sports Plex.

Administrators told the board community user fees will be collected at the sportsplex, but that the district cannot legally profit from it. Instead, the money will be used to offset other costs.

“Well good,” Trustee Carrie Harbach said. “Because then a percentage can come back to us.”

Sturtevant To Submit Request In Writing

Harbach echoed a sentiment expressed by Village President Steve Jansen telling the administrators it was their job to look out for the taxpayers of Sturtevant. And the charter school’s exemption from property taxes, with it’s limited spots and lottery enrollment, could leave Sturtevant taxpayers paying the difference in village revenue created by a school their children probably won’t end up at.

“$57,000 to us we’ll be scratching trying to figure out what we’re gonna cut,” Hoffman said, referring to the 2015 property taxes for the location. In 2016, property taxes for it were about $40,000.

Jansen said it wasn’t unprecedented for a public entity to do a PILOT, pointing to the Racine Correctional Institution.

Hazen disagreed with this comparison, saying bringing a school to a community was much different than bringing in a prison.

Trustee Chris Wright said the village would submit something to RUSD, saying perhaps the village board would be satisfied with a smaller payment.

 

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.