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Rialto explores tax proposal to fund Joliet tourism

The Rialto Square Theatre on Wednesday, May 24, 2017, in Joliet, Ill.
The Rialto Square Theatre on Wednesday, May 24, 2017, in Joliet, Ill.

Rialto Square Theatre advocates are developing a proposal for a tourism tax that would benefit the theater and other attractions in Joliet.

The concept is the latest in a yet unsuccessful effort to develop a guaranteed source of government funding to support the Rialto.

The idea is to broaden the appeal by creating a tax that would help fund the Old Joliet Prison, the Joliet Area Historical Museum, Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park and other venues beyond the Rialto Square Theatre.

Rialto board Chairman Robert Filotto called the concept “a comprehensive funding plan for a number of organizations” when describing it Wednesday at a board meeting.

He said there could be as many as half a dozen venues included in the proposal.

“The appeal of this plan is it’s not only us,” Filotto told the board.

Turning the plan into reality could be a challenge.

Rialto officials for two years have been trying to come up with a dedicated funding source without success.

The Rialto board has no taxing power, and it has been unable to persuade local legislators to change state law to create taxing power for the theater.

The proposal being developed has yet to be taken to Joliet city officials for consideration, although City Council member Pat Mudron, the council’s liaison to the Rialto board, has been involved in the discussions.

Joliet now provides $500,000 to the Rialto each year, but theater officials would like to see a city tax dedicated to funding the theater.

Using property taxes for the funding plan has been ruled out, said Lynne Lichtenauer, a member of the Rialto Square Theatre Foundation and a former executive director of the theater.

She said the plan, modeled after a funding formula used in Rockford, is to ask Joliet to increase the hotel/motel tax while using a portion of that tax and perhaps other local taxes to fund tourism attractions.

The hotel/motel tax, Lichtenauer said, “works real well because it’s not a property tax that the people of Joliet are paying.”

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