Brown County Board to get details about sales tax proposal

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A half-percent sales tax proposal unveiled last week by Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach hits the desks of county board supervisors Monday night.

Neville Public Museum entrance

They are the ones who will ultimately decide what happens next.

The Brown County Board has three options: Approve it, reject it, or push for a public referendum giving voters a chance to weigh in.

Before that decision happens, many supervisors are looking for more detailed information.

Under Streckenbach's plan, the half-percent sales tax would take effect on January 1, 2018, and expire in six years. He says in that time it would generate about $147 million to reduce county debt, lower property taxes, and raise funds for infrastructure projects.

A lot of it would go to road projects ($60 million), reducing overcrowding at the county jail and improving mental health treatment for inmates ($20 million), and maintaining the county library system ($20 million).

Some would go toward a new veterans memorial arena ($15 million).
During a public comment period, Brown County residents said improvements are necessary -- especially for the arena.

"I'm scared to walk into the arena almos literally because of stuff falling out of the ceiling," Kramer Rock, president of Forward Brown County, said. "We need to do something. What time to do it particularly with a half-a-percent tax that is going to end unequivocally?"

One million dollars would be used to upgrade displays at the Neville Public Museum -- something the chairman of the museum governing board says hasn't been done in 35 years.

"We are going to be able to rotate more things from the third floor, and that is where all that good stuff is, it's on the third floor. We want to get that down. We want people to see the depth of our collection that currently they don't see," chairman Kevin Kuehn said.

Other capital projects that would receive funding from the sales tax include:

- Medical examiner and public safety projects ($10 million)
- Resch Expo Center project maintenance ($10 million)
- Parks and fairgrounds ($6 million)
- STEM Research Center ($5 million)

The county and private donors are collectively raising $10 million for the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Research Center, which will be constructed near UW-Green Bay.

Supervisor Aaron Linssen was hoping to get more details Monday as to how Streckenbach broke down the projected $147 million and what the money would be used for, but he didn't necessarily get those answers.

"I know we need to put money toward those projects, but I haven't seen the details as to how much and why we need that specific amount. So I want to see those numbers and me sure there are no red flags before I make a final decision on the matter," said Aaron Linssen, Brown County Supervisor.

However, Streckenbach did explain how the money would be divided up under each capital improvement category. He said the oversight committees would get to do that because they know what projects cost the most and where the money is needed.

Streckenbach also reminded the supervisors that the 0.5 percent sales tax could end early.

"In the end, if we collect more and the projects get completed, we can end it," said Streckenbach. "Instead of ending in 6 years, 72 months, maybe it ends in 62 months."

The Brown County Board of Supervisors are expected to discuss the proposal at their next meeting on Wednesday, May 17.

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