Repurposing Academy as a community center makes sense financially. It’s responsible long-term fiscal planning. Think about it. We’re not starting from scratch. We’re not buying land and constructing a new building. We own the land and building. While $16 million is real money, it’s a reasonable amount to pay for an amenity that will serve the whole town. And this number is a cap. The price will likely come down by millions with tax credits and grants.
Anything the town does with this asset will cost something. Even demolishing and hardscaping the land as a park will be in the $2 million range. An active community center is an amenity that helps keep property values up and bolsters our downtown business center, both of which generate tax revenues. It also works to retain our existing tax base and attract new base, much as the Surf Club and other town amenities have done over the years. Regarding operating costs, it’s within the town’s control to hire a dynamic operator to keep the center filled and bringing in revenues to offset costs.
An accurate fiscal analysis of this project must consider both sides of the ledger. In sum, an Academy community center offers a lot of bang for the buck. It preserves five acres of town-owned land; repurposes an existing town asset; offers residents an in-town venue for programming, events, and activities; provides space for Madison Youth & Family Services’ many services; honors Daniel Hand’s gift; and generates tax revenues.
After 17 years of debate about what to do with this historic building and land, we can’t continue to do nothing. We fought for a fair vote. Now it’s here. The referendum is on Feb. 15. I encourage Madison taxpayers to think long-term and vote “Yes” for Academy community center.
Kathryn L. Hunter