Illustration of suburban revenue troubles: Brookfield vs. the Brookfield Zoo

A constant concern of many suburbs is the tax base: how can the community bring in businesses and land uses that will bring in more tax dollars? To do this, some communities may be willing to offer tax breaks to certain land uses. But with the recent economic crisis, some communities have had to rethink their approach.

The source of contention between the suburb of Brookfield and the Brookfield Zoo is how much the water is going to cost for the zoo. For a long time, the community has given the Zoo a break on water, presumably because the Zoo brings in revenue for the municipality. But now with a tighter budget, Brookfield says it needs to charge the zoo a higher rate and perhaps also add an amusement tax to zoo tickets. In cases like these, some businesses might threaten to move – though this may be particularly complicated for a large zoo.

When times are good, municipalities and businesses don’t have as much trouble working out deals. But when there is less money to go around, issues like these become more common.