Brown County Board approves county sales tax

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BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - The Brown County Board passed by a wide margin, 23-3, a half-percent county sales tax.

It would bring the sales tax in Brown County up to 5.5 percent for 72 months effective January 1, 2018.

The county board vote included an amendment guaranteeing property taxes won't be raised during that 72-month period.

County Executive Troy Streckenbach proposed the tax in his State of the County address earlier this month, saying it would generate an estimated $147 million over six years.

The Brown County Board had the options of approving the sales tax, rejecting it, or pushing for a public referendum giving voters the opportunity to weigh in, like they did when the Lambeau Field sales tax was narrowly passed.

County Supervisor Pat Buckley argued, "I don't feel hiding behind a referendum is going to help. It's going to delay the project and cost us more money."

Supervisor Guy Zima argued against, "Jam it down their throats tonight, and I'll tell you what, I hope they jam it down your throats in about six months."

Here's how the tax revenue would be allocated:

$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

Since proposing it, Streckenbach has held public listening sessions, where some county board members asked for a more specific breakdown on the spending.

The Brown County Taxpayers Association asked the board not to take action at Wednesday's meeting, saying it is too soon to vote on the proposal.

"Holding a vote 15 days after being formally presented at the State of the County address simply does not allow sufficient time for proper debate and vetting," said Association President Rich Heidel.

The board voted down proposals by Supervisor Tom Sieber Wednesday night to delay the vote for a month by sending the proposal back to the Executive Committee and look into the chances of a referendum.

Brown County will set aside $15 million from the county sales tax for replacing the Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena. The rest of the cost would be paid with excess room taxes, but the county still needs approval from four municipalities -- Green Bay, Bellevue, Howard and Suamico. Ashwaubenon, Allouez and De Pere have already agreed.

Streckenbach said he hopes to get the rest of the municipalities to agree "in the next month or so."

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