Outlying communities voice concern over Brown County sales tax

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) -- Brown County leaders heard both concern and support from county residents to a proposed half-percent sales tax across the county.
Open meetings and listening sessions for the sales tax started Wednesday across the area.

County Executive Troy Streckenbach proposed the sales tax last week. He says it would generate $147 million over the next six years which would go toward road projects and addressing overcrowding at the jail. Streckenbach says it would also reduce the county’s debt and property taxes.

The county is hosting nine meetings over the next week, giving residents a chance to weigh in on the tax.

The first meeting was held Wednesday afternoon in Denmark, where villagers came with concerns.

For most people the concern is whether they would see any benefit, living in a community on the outskirts of Green Bay.

At this meeting, the biggest concern was funding for the county Jail.

We’ve told you the jail has seen overcrowding, where the county has had to ship inmates out to other counties, which comes at a cost.

Denmark residents are hoping for more detailed answers about what exactly that sales tax money would fund.

“I understand we want to build a bigger facility just in case, to dissuade these numbers, for an economic benefit, but we were never told what the actual per year cost is for transportation,” says Justin Schiltz of Bellevue.

“I’d be the first one to admit a year-and-a-half ago I didn’t want to build a jail,” says Streckenbach. “Right now, based on projections, the reality is there: We’re going to be spending more money outsourcing inmates to other counties than what it would cost us to actually have the facility here.”

Another concern for residents is the arena.

“In all honesty, if we bring in this trade show venue, it’s going to sit vacant,” Schiltz worries. “The numbers [Streckenbach] talked about today, it’s economic impact. He was using the economic impact of both Shopko Hall and the Resch Center as a conjoined entity. That’s going to skew numbers.”

Residents say they're concerned about getting answers, something Streckenbach says he hopes today’s meeting accomplished.

“I don't know if I walked away from this meeting where everyone was in agreement with me,” Streckenbach acknowledged, “but I feel that they have a better understanding of what we're actually trying to accomplish.”

The Brown County Board can either approve the sales tax, reject it or push for a public referendum giving voters the opportunity to weigh in, like they did when the Lambeau Field sales tax was passed.

The board will discuss the proposal again in a week at their next meeting.



 
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