For as long as there has been a Brookfield Zoo, politicians in the village of Brookfield have been talking about how the municipality can leverage the tourist attraction for its own benefit.

Inevitably, the talk turns to such ideas as trolleys ferrying people from the zoo to the downtown district or taking advantage of people who arrive in town at the Hollywood train station and walk north to the zoo.

After decades of such ideas being floated, we can all agree that none of that is ever going to drive revenue – in the form of sales tax or any other kind of income – for the village of Brookfield. The geography just doesn’t work. The zoo is in Brookfield, and also Riverside, but it’s too far from any business districts to make a direct connection with either town in a meaningful way.

Yet, there’s no denying that Brookfield Zoo is – more now than ever – an economic engine that strives to be more tourist-friendly every day. The zoo’s CEO Stuart Strahl laid out the scope of that economic power in a letter to members last week, calling on them to protest an amusement tax being contemplated by the village of Brookfield. The zoo brings in $150 million per year, draws two million visitors and employs 2,000 people.

The zoo’s revenues, to put it in perspective, are 10 times Brookfield annual municipal budget. As the zoo chugs along, building new world-class exhibits through taxpayer-funded bond issues and government grants, Brookfield has seen its financial situation become ever-more precarious.

As a result, the village is understandably trying to harness the tourist-attracting behemoth in its midst. On Monday, behind closed doors before the village board meeting, Brookfield officials and zoo officials – including their lawyers – met.

Whatever was said in that meeting, the zoo successfully got Brookfield to pull the amusement tax proposal from the table and quell what promised to be an emotional and pointed confrontation.

Village President Michael Garvey said that the zoo didn’t intimidate the village into backing off on the tax question. It sure looked like it.

Officials on both sides said that they plan on talking more and want to work cooperatively, as they’ve done for the past 76 years. In our view, the conversation has looked a bit one-sided.

And with Brookfield facing a financial crisis and further possible cuts in village services, including public safety, it’s incumbent upon officials to find ways to leverage the zoo for its own benefit. The zoo is sure doing it. In 2008, when the zoo wanted to issue $41 million in bonds, the village sold them so the zoo could get a better interest rate. How much juice did that save the zoo? It wasn’t chimp change, you can bet on that.

The village estimated an amusement tax would net the village $500,000 or more per years. The alternative to getting that kind of revenue to fund village operations is a property tax referendum. The zoo would prefer that. Any takers in Brookfield?