MOUNT PLEASANT — Two weeks after the Mount Pleasant Village Board voted to end its contract with Real Racine — effective Jan. 1 — several community members have lamented the decision and asked village trustees to reconsider.
Mount Pleasant contributes about $690,000 in room tax to Real Racine, each year, making up 54 percent of the organization’s budget. The Village Board voted unanimously on June 25 to end its contract with Real Racine after a 35-year working relationship. Instead, the village plans to create its own tourism commission to focus more on Mount Pleasant, instead of the City of Racine. Real Racine, also known as the Racine County Convention and Visitors Bureau, promotes tourism and development in Racine County.
Six members of the public spoke out against Mount Pleasant's decision during Monday’s Village Board meeting.
Most of the speakers agreed that although Mount Pleasant is home to most of the county’s hotel rooms, which generate room taxes used to fund tourism promotion, people generally come to the area for attractions and events that take place in the City of Racine. This means the village would benefit from supporting events and attractions in the city.
“We can expect our tourism center to be focused on those events and those attractions which draw visitors to our area,” said village resident Kurt Vlach. “By drawing visitors to Racine, the hotel rooms in Mount Pleasant will be filled up.”
He urged the trustees to work together with other communities to maximize the tourism budget for the area.
Although Village President Dave DeGroot didn’t respond to the public comments during Moday's meeting, he defended the board’s decision during an interview with The Journal Times on Tuesday.
“Our basic feeling is we didn’t think it was a good deal,” DeGroot said of the contract with Real Racine. “We want more control over how our money is spent.”
DeGroot said the board did not think it was fair that Mount Pleasant provided more than half of Real Racine’s annual budget, but only had two members on its 19-member board.
Dave Blank, president and CEO of Real Racine, said Mount Pleasant’s decision will have a “major impact” on the organization.
He added that the entity will have to set aside entire sectors of its work due to the funding cut.
Jeff Loken, one of the community members who spoke during Monday’s meeting, argued that the village had enough to worry about with Foxconn campus construction underway.
“It just seems like it’s ludicrous that you voted to withdraw funding from Real Racine when Real Racine is promoting the entire county,” Loken said.
He challenged the board members to name an attraction in Mount Pleasant that draws tourists.
“It’s a residential community that supports the City of Racine,” Loken said.
Last week, Real Racine announced the cancellation of the Pro-Am Beach Soccer Wisconsin Qualifier Tournament that had been set for the weekend of July 20, in part due to budget uncertainties related to Mount Pleasant’s decision.
DeGroot said blaming the cancellation on the village was insincere, as Mount Pleasant will continue to honor its contract and provide room tax dollars to Real Racine through the end of the year.
Blank countered that the future funding cut was a big factor his organization’s decision cancel the tournament. With only 10 teams registered and none planning to stay overnight, the event wasn’t set to be a good return on investment for Real Racine.
Blank said if the organization’s funding was to remain steady next year, it likely would have gone ahead with the tournament, in hopes of building it into a more profitable venture in coming years. However, Blank said, Real Racine officials had to think about cutting costs now; they can’t wait until Dec. 31 to think about the impact of Mount Pleasant’s decision.
Real Racine sent a representative to listen in on Monday’s Village Board meeting, and Blank said it was “great to hear” the support for the organization from members of the public. He added that Real Racine did not organize the commentators.
DeGroot said that the village has not ruled out continuing to work with and contribute to Real Racine in the future.
“From the board’s perspective, we don’t see a downside in having more of a say in how we spend the money,” he said.