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Local News

Rialto Square Theatre board begins to explore tax options

Rialto Square Theatre as seen from the Van Buren Plaza in downtown Joliet.
Rialto Square Theatre as seen from the Van Buren Plaza in downtown Joliet.

JOLIET – The Rialto Square Theatre board will consider seeking a steady source of tax revenue among other options as it pursues new revenue for the theater.

A potential Rialto tax was discussed last week when the board met for a workshop session to look for reliable ways to fund the theater.

“This is not going to happen overnight,” Chairman Robert Filotto said.

But Filotto and other board members said they should start reaching out to city and county officials, as well as business leaders, to discuss the development of a dedicated source of funding for the Rialto.

“I think we should identify someone on the county board who is sympathetic to the Rialto and can be a point person,” board member Joe Carlasare said.

The board also discussed pursuing grants and renewing relationships with Rialto donors.

But Finance Director Dale Evans in a presentation on funding history and options for the future repeatedly pointed to the potential revenue that could be generated by dedicating a portion of a city or county tax to the Rialto.

He pointed to sales taxes, hotel/motel taxes, and food and beverage taxes as possibilites that are used in other parts of Illinois to support civic center operations.

Such an effort was explored last year under a different Rialto board but abandoned because it was an election year, Evans said.

“We have broached it with a few of our local legislators,” Evans said. “However, it was an election year, and this kind of effort was not necessarily a priority in an election year. It’s time to look at this type of thing again.”

The Rialto and adjoining office space is overseen by the Will County Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority, commonly called the Rialto board, which was created by state legislation in the late 1970s.

The legislation does not give the Rialto any taxing powers, although it does allow the auditorium authority to seek voter approval for bonding authority through a countywide referendum that would provide tax money to back up the bonds.

Evans noted that the original legislation did authorize bonds to pay for needed renovations at the time. Those bonds were funded through a portion of the Joliet hotel/motel tax before being paid off.

Joliet has since been virtually the sole source of tax revenue for the theater, but it is a voluntary contribution.

Joliet this year has provided $500,000 to the Rialto, although the city did not originally budget the money for the theater and agreed to the funding after theater supporters pleaded to the city council.

Evans and board members said the Rialto should pursue both the city and county as potential funding sources, noting that most Rialto patrons now come from outside Joliet.

“I wouldn’t pursue the city exclusively,” board member Donnie Chestnutt said, “because so much from the county impacts on the Rialto.”

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