Washington County officials continue their waitand- see approach on the future of Milwaukee’s BMO Bradley Center before taking a stand on how it should be funded.
Among proposals to fund such a project is the creation of a regional sales tax, similar to the five-county 0.1 percent sales tax district started in 1996 to pay for Miller Park where the Milwaukee Brewers play. Miller Park opened in 2001.
The idea of another such tax district raises the hackles of opponents and demands this county vote to oppose any new tax for the Bradley Center. While some counties and municipalities have done so, Washington County has not.
“As soon as there’s an article in the newspaper my phone starts to ring,” Washington County Board Chairman Herb Tennies said during Tuesday morning’s session of the County Board Executive Committee.
“We do not have a resolution yet because we do not know what is going to be proposed,” Tennies said of the 48-member task force.
When former Sen. Herb Kohl announced the sale of the Milwaukee Bucks to two New York hedge-fund investors for $550 million two weeks ago, Kohl and the new ownership team each promised to cover a quarter of the estimated $400 million cost of a multipurpose arena to replace the Bradley Center.
That fueled stories on how the other $200 million should be raised. “A lot of people just don’t have all the facts,” County Supervisor Mark McCune said. The town of Erin resident is Washington County’s representative on the cultural needs task force.
Since December, McCune has stressed the task force is looking into funding and facility needs of the all cultural, artistic and entertainment institutions in the seven counties. “It dwarfed the discussion about the Bradley Center,” McCune said.
He pointed out the Miller Park tax district, which includes Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Washington and Waukesha counties, was created by the Legislature. “We didn’t make the decision on Miller Park. The state did,” McCune said. Washington County voted against the Miller Park tax, he said.
McCune, a banker and developer, also is the county’s representative on the Southeast Wisconsin Baseball District Board, which handles finances for Miller Park. “We’re trying to end that (tax) as quickly as possible,” he said.
McCune said he advocates the County Board take no action until the task force makes a recommendation. It makes more sense, he said, to wait until the facts are known before voting on speculation. “We’re trying to get information,” McCune said.
There have been discussions on a cigarette tax or hotel room tax and the idea of forming a super tax incremental financing district.
But those remain discussion points. “If there is going to be a sales tax, it’s going to be your legislators in Madison that will decide on this, not the county,” McCune said.
When a proposal is brought forward, Tennies said, then a resolution will be brought to the County Board.