The Facts: Proposed Brown County 0.5% sales tax

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - On Tuesday, the Brown County Executive proposed bringing back a half-percent sales tax to pay for a number of projects in Brown County.

That increase would bring the sales tax in Brown County up to 5.5 percent for 72 months.
Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach said that tax increase would generate about $147 million over the next six years.

Here is a breakdown of where that money will go:

$60 million -- roads and facilities infrastructure
$20 million -- jail and mental health
$20 million -- libraries
$15 million -- Expo Hall
$10 million -- medical examiner’s morgue and public safety
$10 million -- maintenance fund Resch and Expo
$6 million -- fairground and parks
$5 million -- STEM center
$1 million -- museum

During Streckenbach’s ‘State of the County’ address, a lot of his speech was focused on the remodeling of the Brown County Veterans memorial arena, but it’s only about $15 million of the entire $147 generated.

The 0.5 percent sales tax would also reduce the county’s debt by $70 million because the county would stop borrowing money and reduce property taxes by about $6 million.

“What we are looking at is how do we use other people’s money, out of county money, to fund the expo hall, make that investment in the corridor and then take that sales tax and have it fund capital needs for the county and at the same time provide debt reduction and tax relief,” said Streckenbach.

But the County Board of Supervisors get to decide whether this tax is put in place in 2018 and they have three options.

Option one is to vote ‘No’ and send Streckenbach back to the drawing board.

Option two is to vote ‘Yes’ by getting 14 of the 26 supervisors to approve the plan, but this option comes with another hurdle.

Streckenbach wants to pay for the majority of a new multi-million arena using the room tax, but it's not available for another 12 years.

He would have to get all municipalities in the room tax commission to agree to send their dollars to the arena after 2029.

“All they need to do is allow the county to have the excess room tax after 2029.

Option three would allow the supervisors to push for a referendum, giving voters a chance to weigh in like they did when the half-percent sales tax was passed last time, but that comes with a cost.

“When you look at this proposal on the surface, it has a lot of good ideas, but like I say we need more detail and I think everyone in the county has to be on board,” said Bernie Erickson, Brown County Supervisor.

Action 2 News reached out to all 26 Brown County Board Supervisors who will debate the tax on Monday. Of the ones we talked to, most of them say they are open to the plan but they would like some more information before making a decision.