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Task Force Members

CO-CHAIRS
JOHN DANIELS
Quarles & Brady

&

Cultural
Entertainment
CAPITAL NEEDS TASK FORCE

JAY WILLIAMS
Milwaukee Public Museum

IAN ABSTON
NEWaukee

JON GREENBERG
Milwaukee Admirals

MARIE O’BRIEN
Sharon Lynn Wilson Center for the Arts

RICH TENNESSEN
Zoological Society Board

RANA ALTENBERG
Marquette University

GARY GRUNAU
Spirit of Milwaukee

JENNIFER O’HEAR
Common Ground (Alternate)

GREGORY THORNTON
Milwaukee Public Schools

JOANNE ANTON
Milwaukee Bucks (Alternate)

EVE HALL
African American Chamber of Commerce

MATTHEW PARLOW
Bradley Center Board

DEANNA TILLISCH
United Performing Arts Fund

ROBERT BAUMAN
City of Milwaukee

MAGGIE KUHN JACOBUS
Creative Alliance Milwaukee

KHALIF RAINEY
Milwaukee County Board (Alternate)

HARRIS TURER
Milwaukee Admirals

DANIEL BECKER
Ozaukee County Board

TRACY JOHNSON
Commercial Association of Realtors

MIKE RUZICKA
Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors®

PAUL UPCHURCH
VISIT Milwaukee

CORRY JOE BIDDLE
FUEL Milwaukee

DAN KEEGAN
Milwaukee Art Museum

DEBBIE SEEGER
Patina Solutions

BETH WEIRICK
Milwaukee Downtown BID 21

DAVID BOROWSKI
Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge

SUZANNE KELLEY
Waukesha County Business Alliance

TIM SHEEHY
MMAC

TEIG WHALEY-SMITH
Milwaukee County Executive’s Office

CHERI BRISCOE
JOHN KISSINGER
Milwaukee County Parks Advisory Commission GRAEF

KELLY SKINDZELEWSKI
Potawatomi Bingo Casino (Alternate)

SCOTT WILLIAMS
FUEL Milwaukee

BOB COOK
Milwaukee Bucks

KEITH SWARTZ
Waukesha County

LAURIE WINTERS
Wisconsin Museum of Art

JULIA TAYLOR
Greater Milwaukee Committee

TERRY WITKOWSKI
City of Milwaukee (Alternate)

KEN KRAEMER
Building Advantage and the Construction
Labor Management Council of SE Wis.

JAKE CURTIS
Ozaukee County Board

KEISHA KRUMM
Common Ground

RICARDO DIAZ
United Community Center

MICHAEL LANZDORF
Racine County (Alternate)

MARINA DIMITREJEVIC
Milwaukee County Board

JON LEHMAN
Racine County

RODNEY FERGUSON
Potawatomi Bingo Casino

VINCENT LYLES
Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee

JORGE FRANCO
Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
ALEC FRASER
Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Board
ELLEN GILLIGAN
Greater Milwaukee Foundation
FRANKLYN GIMBEL
Wisconsin Center District
JENNIFER GONDA
City of Milwaukee

Summary o f
Findings and Recommendations

CHUCK HARVEY
Johnson Controls

REV. CARL GRIFFIN
Common Ground (Alternate)

To: Timothy Sheehy, President - Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce
From: Keith K. Swartz, Waukesha County County Executive Representative

Member of the Cultural & Entertainment Capital Needs Task Force
Date: March 12, 2015
Re: Final Report of the Cultural and Entertainment Capital Needs Task Force-Appendix

PAUL MATHEWS
Marcus Center for the Performing Arts

Tim,
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as a member of the Cultural and Entertainment
Capital Needs Task Force and provide input and suggestions from Waukesha County’s
perspective during committee and work group subcommittee meetings. Waukesha
County has worked and will continue to work cooperatively and effectively on several
share services projects with both the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County, which
have been cost effective and save taxpayers’ money. This memo is for inclusion in the
final report to reiterate the position of the Waukesha County Executive and Waukesha
County Board. As I have indicated throughout the entire time I served on the committee,
Waukesha County’s position continues to be opposed to any proposed regional tax to be
used to fund capital costs of Cultural and Entertainment Facilities indicated in the Task
Force report. Again, thank you for the opportunity to be at the table for these discussions.

MARY MCCORMICK
Rotary Club of Milwaukee

Sincerely,
Keith K. Swartz

MARK MCCUNE
Washington County

CC:

ALDO MADRIGRANO
VISIT Milwaukee
ROCKY MARCOUX
City of Milwaukee
VICKI MARTIN
MATC

Daniel Vrakas, Waukesha County Executive
Shawn Lundie, Waukesha County Chief of Staff

RELEASED OCTOBER 2015

www.culturalneedstaskforce.com/

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Cultural & Entertainment Capital Needs Task Force
• Convened 2013-2015
• 50 civic, elected, business and not-for-profit leaders
• The task force is:
Developing a vision, with
community input, to leverage
cultural and entertainment
assets to enhance the region’s
attractiveness

Identifying funding approaches
to ensure the region retains
world-class amenities

Providing impactful options for
consideration by policymakers,
private sector funders and
community leaders

A

s the co-chairs of the
Cultural and Entertainment
Capital Needs Task Force,
we want to share with
you this final report of our
group. Following 16 months
of discussions, meetings,
benchmarking, and a strong base of research
from the Public Policy Forum, we want to thank
all our fellow task force members for their
engagement.
This, however, is not our “mission
accomplished” moment. This is the
beginning of what we hope will be
continued community engagement and
ultimately, concrete actions to secure a
sustainable funding source for our regional
cultural institutions.
The Task Force members brought a wide
range of opinions to the challenging facts
of declining public financial support for
our key cultural and entertainment assets.
Those opinions and recommendations are
highlighted in this report. In addition, the
timing and focus of the anticipated public
financing package for a new downtown
entertainment center and NBA arena
caused us to delay the release of this
report. We believe it is now time to finish
what was started with this successful public
private partnership.

Our success as a community to grow
economic opportunity will be enhanced by
our collective ability to sustain a vibrant and
globally competitive quality of life. Part of
that equation is measured by the character
of our cultural institutions, entertainment
venues and parks.
Looking forward, we urge our public and
private sector leadership to pick up this
body of work and move deliberately to the
decisions necessary to keep greater Milwaukee
competitive as a destination for the talent and
capital investment.
Finally, we extend our thanks to MMAC for its
leadership in pulling the task force together
as well as Anne Curley, our task force project
leader. We call on you all to stay the course.

JOHN DANIELS
Quarles & Brady

CHUCK HARVEY
Johnson Controls

JAY WILLIAMS
Milwaukee Public Museum

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Dear Task Force members,
The best way to start this torch-passing letter is with a deep thank you to the entire
Cultural and Entertainment Capital Needs Task Force for your time, ideas and
passion to improve metropolitan Milwaukee’s quality of life. And a special thank you
to John Daniels, Chuck Harvey and Jay Williams for their significant leadership
in guiding this work.
The way forward begins with our commitment to engage with other partners to
execute the vision and ideas incorporated in the task force work product. MMAC
launched this effort because world-class culture, arts and entertainment institutions
are key to our economic competitiveness. Quality of place matters to the business
community’s ability to grow, attract and retain the talent that it needs to be
successful in a global marketplace.
Furthermore, we need a metropolitan approach. We cannot compete for capital
investment and jobs county by county. A majority of the region’s citizens work
outside the counties in which they live. Those employers that drive our economic
prosperity rely on the assets of the entire metro area. To support cultural, arts and
entertainment assets that are both unique and metropolitan in their value, we cannot
continue to rely on the property taxpayers of one county for the necessary public
investment.
The crossroad is here; the impact of our decisions going forward will be metro-wide
and generational. The insightful work of this committee will not be left on the shelf.
Next steps for MMAC include identifying organizations and individuals interested in
using the task force work product to secure a better funding source. We will need a
significant commitment to:
regional
public
legislative
a successful campaign to
1 | Engage
2 | Solicit
3 | Gain
4 | Execute
leaders;
feedback;
support; and
implement a new funding model.

The crossroad is here:
the impact of our
decisions going forward
will be metro-wide and
generational.
The insightful work of this
committee will not be left
on the shelf.

Your participation was invaluable in setting metro Milwaukee on a path forward. But
the destination — the long-term viability of these regional assets — is well worth a
sustained journey.
Sincerely,

TIM SHEEHY
MMAC President

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$10.1M

TA B L E

O F

Contents
$6.0M

$6.0M

$6.9M

$6.7M

$6.8M

$6.8M

$6.9M

8 | Findings & recommendations
10 | Overview of conclusions
12 | The path that led there
15 | Shared regional vision
16 | Perspectives from other metros
19 | Number crunching
27 | Funding sources and uses
31 | Summary
32 | Task force members

2001

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

Declining Public Investment

Annual tax levy support for four cultural institutions
(Milwaukee Public Museum, Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, Milwaukee Art Museum and War Memorial.)
Levy adjusted for inflation (2013$)

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Findings &
Recommendations
In December 2013, the Public Policy Forum published a report titled,
“Pulling Back the Curtain” that sounded an alarm over a quiet crisis in
metropolitan Milwaukee.

Funding shortfall threatens
long-term viability of cultural
assets
Faced with a steep rise in mandated expenditures, Milwaukee County has
steadily reduced funding for the region’s signature cultural institutions.
Since 2001, the allocation of tax dollars for county-owned cultural
facilities – most notably the Marcus Center for the Performing
Arts, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee Public Museum and
Milwaukee County Zoo – has been cut by more than 40% in inflationadjusted dollars, the Forum reported. Today, leaking roofs, obsolete HVAC
systems, faulty windows and other signs of deterioration show the effects
of a growing funding shortfall that threatens the long-term viability of the
Milwaukee region’s cornerstone cultural assets, which depend solely on
the region’s least affluent county for taxpayer support.

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At around the same time, what many saw as a not-so-quiet
crisis emerged when the National Basketball Association
(NBA) announced that the BMO Harris Bradley Center no
longer meets the league’s requirements for an NBA team,
putting the future of both the Bucks and the arena
in jeopardy.
Meanwhile, the Millennial generation is changing the rule
on which comes first – the job opportunity or the location
decision. Surveys show, and shifting demographics confirm,
that young adults with portable talent – including our own
children and grandchildren — increasingly are deciding first
where they want to live and then where they’re going to work.
And where they want to live depends largely on “quality of
place”– a term that has come to describe a blend of social
and cultural amenities, openness to new ideas and people,
and physical aesthetics. As a result, employers looking to
recruit young professionals are creating jobs and fueling a
virtuous cycle of economic growth in metro areas that rank
high on these attributes.
The crossing of these two trend lines – declining viability of
our region’s major cultural and entertainment facilities and
rising importance of social and cultural amenities in attracting
talent – led the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of
Commerce (MMAC) to form the Cultural and Entertainment
Capital Needs Task Force. Having watched dynamic metro
areas that once were smaller outgrow the Milwaukee region
– such as Cleveland, Ohio; Indianapolis, Indiana; Nashville,
Tennessee; and San Antonio, Texas – the MMAC recognized
that this quiet crisis is more than a cultural issue. It’s a threat
to our region’s job base.

The task force was charged with addressing this threat.
The goal was two-fold:
• Generate a fact-based, inclusive discussion regarding our
major publicly funded cultural and entertainment assets,
specifically focusing on capital needs.
• Identify one or more funding strategies that would enable
our region to retain first-rate cultural and entertainment
facilities.
Rather than aiming for unanimity, the task force was
designed to reflect divergent views in our region with
respect to taxpayer support for cultural and entertainment
assets. While not a representative population sample,
it encompassed an array of perspectives ranging from
members who back a “Go big or go home” approach to
public investment in quality-of-place amenities to those who
oppose any additional taxpayer support. Likewise, many
members see these signature facilities as important assets
to the entire region that should receive region-wide public
support while others believe they primarily benefit Milwaukee
County and should be that county’s responsibility.
These contrasting views mirror divides in our metropolitan
area. This report does not resolve them. Rather, we hope it
lays helpful groundwork for a sustained, widespread dialog
on the role of public cultural and entertainment assets in our
region’s growth strategy and how we can best ensure that
both flourish if the citizens of this region deem this a priority.

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Overview
o f Conclusions
We LIVE as a metro.

County Population

Milwaukee 955,205
Ozaukee 86,395
Washington 132,661
Waukesha 392,292

We WORK as a metro.
We PLAY as a metro.

Employed in but
Employed
live outside county
outside county
County

Milwaukee 188,000
28%
Ozaukee 22,000 65%
Washington 25,000
63%
Waukesha 129,000 51%
Milwaukee Art Museum

Milwaukee County Zoo

Marcus Center-Broadway Series

A large majority of task force members reached the following conclusions:

Regional vs. County

The Marcus Center, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee County Zoo, Milwaukee Public Museum,
and Wisconsin Center are regional, vs. county-specific assets.

Capital Projects vs. Operating Budgets

Any new public funding mechanism to support these assets should be limited
to capital projects vs. supplementing operating budgets, so voters see tangible results.

Sunset Provision

Any new public funding mechanism should feature a sunset provision so that it expires after a given period
of time. To ensure that there is no possibility of a new tax being extended beyond the expected end date,
the tax should be used to fund capital projects on a pay-as-you-go basis rather than to fund borrowing.

Sales Tax Option

A sales tax surcharge is the most viable option for a new public funding mechanism.
A consumption tax merits further consideration as an alternative.

Milwaukee County Parks

Including parks in a package that would go to Milwaukee County voters should
be considered if polling shows that this significantly broadens citizen support.

Other taxes not an option
Attendance percentages for selected cultural venues by county of residence.
Milwaukee

Waukesha

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Ozaukee

Washington

A ticket tax, TIF district, local income tax or property tax increase should be dropped
from consideration as potential funding sources.

Other

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The Path that
Led There

Key findings included:

1|

The five-year capital needs of the Milwaukee County-owned arts and cultural
facilities and parks are immense, with conservatively projected capital requirements
totaling $250 million over the next five years.

Deferred Maintenance & Five-year Capital
Improvement Budget (MKE County)
DEFERRED MAINTENANCE

$110M MKE county parks & cultural amenities
Between December 2013 and December 2014, the
task force held eight full meetings, four public listening
sessions, four meetings of a “Data Curating Team”
subcommittee and two optional small-group meetings.
Minutes of the full meetings and public listening
sessions are posted on the task force web site,
www.culturalneedstaskforce.com.
The group grew included community leaders drawn
from the business, civic, cultural, entertainment and
local government sectors in Milwaukee, Ozaukee,
Washington and Waukesha counties. Leading the
group were co-chairs John Daniels, chairman emeritus
of the Quarles & Brady law firm; Charles Harvey, then

vice president for diversity and public affairs at Johnson
Controls; and Jay Williams, chairman of the Milwaukee
Public Museum.
To ensure that discussion and decisions would be
grounded in facts, the group spent its first three
meetings absorbing Public Policy Forum research on
historical and projected capital needs, expenditures
and shortfalls of the region’s cultural and entertainment
facilities that receive public funding.

CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS

$140M MKE county parks & cultural amenities
$250M TOTAL
$325M could be raised through a five-year, one half cent sales tax in Milwaukee County

2|
3|
4|

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As mandated costs for corrections, human services and employee benefits have
ballooned, the share of Milwaukee County tax dollars directed toward cultural assets
has steadily declined, now accounting for less than 4% of the county budget.

While the large majority of funding for the region’s signature cultural assets comes
from earned revenue and private donations, public funding plays a crucial role in
maintaining and periodically updating these facilities’ infrastructures.

County-owned cultural facilities have offset reduced county support by boosting
earned revenues and private support and through cost-cutting. But as the Public
Policy Forum’s report “Pulling Back the Curtain” observed, “It is difficult to ‘innovate
one’s way out’ of the needs associated with aging buildings and facilities.” Equally
difficult, the report added, is raising private funds for basic repair and upkeep of
county-owned buildings.

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Turning outward, the task force looked at how five
other U.S. metro areas are using new public funding
mechanisms to support cultural assets and other
quality-of-place enhancements. The Cleveland,
Denver, Oklahoma City, Pittsburgh and St. Louis
areas all have won voter support for various types
of tax increases aimed at improving their ability to
compete for talent and business development.

Shared
Regional Vision

While funding sources and uses vary among the five,
several recurring themes emerged:
• Sustained public awareness and education
campaigns that make a compelling case for
increased public funding are essential.
• Proposed uses for the funding must have broad,
“something in it for everyone” appeal.
• Tangible results – i.e., a physical improvement
versus a new program or expanded payroll
– build credibility.
• Time-limited tax increases are easier to pass
and, when coupled with an on-time delivery of
promised results, can pave the way for future
successful referenda.
• Transparent, representative governing bodies that
monitor allocation of the funds raised is another
crucial ingredient.

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With some members feeling the need to step back from the data
and envision the end in mind, the task force convened a largescale visioning event at the Milwaukee Art Museum. There, 120
community leaders from Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and
Waukesha counties spent a half-day identifying key elements
of a broad vision for the future of culture and entertainment in
metropolitan Milwaukee.
Perhaps the biggest idea that emerged was to use a shared
regional vision for a world-class cultural and entertainment
scene as a way to get citizens of a divided region to start
identifying as one, interdependent community. What might this
shared vision look like? From hundreds of ideas, there were
three recurring themes:

• Globally competitive cultural and entertainment offerings
ranging from the visual and performing arts to professional
sports to museum and zoo exhibits.
• Easy access for all to these offerings – in terms of travel time,
affordability and robust public transit.
• A wealth of diversity – racial, generational, ethnic and
economic – that adds vibrancy and interest to the area’s
cultural and entertainment scene.
With these and other ideas offered as “starter thoughts”
for a more broad-based, inclusive visioning process, many
participants said the region must move beyond the we/they
mentality that often divides city dwellers from residents
of outlying suburbs. Think big, many urged – “not just outside
the box but as if there were no box,” in the words of one
young entrepreneur.

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Perspectives
from
other metros
Picking up on the “think big” theme, the
task force next heard from representatives
of three metro areas – Cleveland, Denver
and Oklahoma City – that have significantly
improved their ability to compete for
economic growth by increasing public
funding of quality-of-life amenities.
The Denver area has focused on branding
itself as “the smartest and healthiest
community in America — the best place for
25-34-year-olds with a college degree,” said
Kelly Brough, president and CEO of the
Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. “We
are competing with regions around the world
for talent. There’s a different expectation of
what your city has to look like to attract the
next generation,” she said.
Suffering from a prolonged downturn in the area’s
dominant industry, the energy sector, Denver’s
leaders persuaded citizens to pass a tenth-ofa-cent regional sales tax to fund a “Scientific

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Voters in the Cleveland area approved a 10year, 30-cent-a-pack cigarette tax to fund a
variety of cultural and entertainments assets
through a newly created “Cuyahoga Arts
and Culture District,” said Joseph Roman,
president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland
Partnership. “A previous generation built our
museums and cultural attractions and
they were neglected for years. We know
now, in hindsight, how valuable these
amenities are to our community.”
The tax, which raises $15 million to
$20 million a year, has helped spark
a revitalization that has attracted more
than $3.5 billion in private funds to the
Cleveland area, according to Forbes.

MMAC President Tim Sheehy moderated a
discussion with Roy Williams, president & CEO,
Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce; Kelly
Brough, president & CEO, Denver Metro Chamber
of Commerce; and Joe Roman, president & CEO,
Greater Cleveland Partnership.

and Cultural District.” Voters approved and twice
renewed the time-limited tax increase, with a
fourth referendum scheduled for 2016. These and
other investments have catapulted Denver to the
sixth fastest growing city in the country in 2014,
according to Forbes Magazine.

years if Oklahoma City did not meet their
expectations. “World-class companies can go
anywhere,” said Roy H. Williams, president
& CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City
Chamber. “Companies are driven to locate
where there is talent.”

Oklahoma City citizens approved a
temporary one-cent increase in the local sales
tax to fund eight designated civic projects
over eight years. The vote came after the area
lost out on an opportunity to add thousands
of jobs from a corporate relocation because
the company feared it would not be able to
persuade professionals to move there.
Citizens may also have been reacting to
another wake-up call: The area’s largest
employer, Devon Energy, was being forced
to promise new recruits that it would pay
for them to move away from the area in two

“There’s a different
expectation of what
your city has to look
like to attract the next
generation.”
- KELLY BROUGH
Denver Metro Chamber
Williams credits the increased public
investment, which leveraged additional private
funds, with dramatically boosting the area’s
retention of college graduates from less than
50% to 90%. The area is now adding an
average of 2,500 new residents a month.
Denver’s Brough said she sees Milwaukee
at a tipping point and asked, “Are you willing
to make the investment that will tip you to
become a city of the world?”

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Number
crunching
Having reviewed the facts surrounding the funding shortfall at home and the strategies used to meet similar
challenges elsewhere, the task force delved into scenario-building over the summer of 2014. A subcommittee
dubbed the Data Curating Team was formed. Its assignment: Project the impact of various potential funding
mechanisms and present this analysis to the full task force in September.
The team immediately eliminated a property tax increase from consideration. Task Force members earlier
had pointed to what many consider an existing overreliance on this revenue source, which already places a
substantially higher tax burden on area property owners than the national average.
Funding mechanisms deemed worthy of analysis included a regional consumption tax on beer, cigarettes and/
or liquor; a surtax on admission tickets for designated attractions; a tax increment financing district; a four-county
sales tax surcharge; and a Milwaukee County-only sales tax surcharge.
Under the leadership of Task Force Co-chair Jay Williams, the Data Curating Team reviewed a variety of “sources
and uses” scenarios, crafting a set of options for the full Task Force to consider.

Data Curating Team

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JAKE CURTIS
Ozaukee County Board

DAN KEEGAN
Milwaukee Art Museum

KEITH SWARTZ
Waukesha County

ELLEN GILLIGAN
Greater Milwaukee Foundation

PAUL MATHEWS
Marcus Center for the Performing Arts

DEANNA TILLISCH
United Performing Arts Fund

ROB HENKEN
Public Policy Forum

MATT PARLOW
Bradley Center Board/Marquette
University

JAY WILLIAMS
Milwaukee Public Museum

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Hypothetical uses of funds that were included
for discussion purposes were:

1

2

Deferred
Maintenance
$8 million per year to cover
20-year debt financing of $105
million to eliminate the current
deferred maintenance backlog
at Milwaukee County-funded
parks and four regional cultural
institutions: the Milwaukee Art
Museum, Milwaukee Public
Museum, Milwaukee County
Zoo and Marcus Center for the
Performing Arts. (Note: The
assumption made throughout this
analysis is that public assets that
predominantly benefit a single
county should be funded by the
taxpayers of that county and that
the public funding of assets that
significantly benefit residents of
a multi-county region would most
fairly be spread proportionally.)

$8M

Capital
Improvements
$11 million per year to cover
20-year debt financing of $140
million for modest, currently
planned capital improvements
to Milwaukee County parks and
the same four regional cultural
institutions.

+

$11M

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+

5

4

3
Operating Budgets
of Major Assets

W.O.W. Counties
Discretionary Funding

Milwaukee County
Parks Operations

Milwaukee County
Public Transit

$11 million per year to augment
the operating budgets of
the Milwaukee Art Museum,
Milwaukee Public Museum,
Milwaukee County Zoo and
Marcus Center for the Performing
Arts. This item contemplates
moving these line items off
the Milwaukee County budget,
which would free up funds for
other purposes such as public
transit, mental health services,
or property tax reduction. While
outside the slated scope of the
task force, the team included this
option in response to interest
expressed by task force members.

$5 million per year in discretionary
funding to Waukesha, Ozaukee
and Washington (WOW)
counties to support projects or
organizations of their choosing.
This option was included in
recognition that each county in
the metro area has needs and
aspirations that could be funded
through additional public support
or by shifting from the property tax
to a new funding mechanism. This
type of flexible funding is similar to
the Denver model, where grants
are awarded by a representative
governing body to applicants for
specific projects.

$25 million per year of funds
raised in Milwaukee County
only to pay for the operation of
that county’s parks. This item
contemplates moving parks off
the Milwaukee County budget,
which would allow the county to
shift funds to other purposes and/
or reduce property taxes. While
outside the stated scope of the
task force, the team included this
option in response to interest
expressed by task force members.

$18.2 million per year of funds
raised in Milwaukee County only
to pay the county’s portion of
the current public transit system.
This would allow this cost to be
removed from the county budget,
which would enable the county to
shift funds to other purposes and/
or reduce property taxes.

$11M

+

$5M

+

$25M

7

6

+

$18.2M

Wisconsin Center
Expansion
$10 million per year to cover 20year debt financing of a $200 million
expansion of the Wisconsin Center
convention center. While also outside
the task force scope, this item was
included in the analysis in response
to interest expressed by task force
members. The Wisconsin Center
District owns and operates the
convention center, the UW-Milwaukee
Panther Arena and the Milwaukee
Theatre. The district collects revenue
from four taxes: a 2.5% Milwaukee
County room tax; a 7% room tax in the
City of Milwaukee; a 0.5% food and
beverage tax in Milwaukee County;
and a 3% countywide car rental tax.
All of that revenue is pledged for debt
service.

+

$10M

=

$88.2M
Annually

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The annual cost of the first three items – which were the focus of the task force – totals $34 million. This figure is
appropriately modest, relative to amounts spent on core pubic services. For example, Milwaukee County taxpayers
spend 58 times more, $1.98 billion, on public K-12 schools; 17 times as much, $570 million, on human services; and
seven times as much, $261 million, on public transportation.
The team noted that using annual revenue to support debt payments for some of the above purposes had the advantage
of accelerating the positive impact of investments by using borrowed money. On the other hand, using a pay-as-you-go
approach would ultimately make substantially more dollars available for investment by eliminating interest payments.

Potential sources of funds and
their projected impact included:
1. A consumption tax applied throughout the four-county region on beer, cigarettes and/or liquor. For illustration
purposes, the team calculated the impact of a $2 per barrel surtax on beer, a $2 per gallon surtax on liquor
and an additional 20-cent-per-pack surtax on cigarettes. Without accounting for any fall-off due to the higher
cost, projected revenue from each levy was $2.5 million on beer, $7.4 million on liquor and $12.7 million on
cigarettes.

Annual Public Spending Comparison

Looking at consumption taxes across the U.S., the team noted that beer and liquor sold in this area are taxed
less than the national average, while cigarettes already are taxed substantially more than average.

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Cultural &
Entertainment/
Milwaukee
County Parks

$27 million

Transportation

County
Public Safety

$56 million

County

$230 million

MATC

$261 million

$570 million
Health
& Human
Services

$395 million

$1.98 billion
Milwaukee
County
Schools

2. Tax increment financing (TIF), in which future gains in property tax revenue from new development in a
defined district are used to fund current improvements within the district. The task force later dropped this
vehicle from consideration since it assumes that the development in question is subject to property taxes,
which is not true of publicly owned assets.

Miller Park
Funded through
$.10, five-county
sales tax

3. A ticket tax, which would apply to all paid admissions at designated venues. A $1 surcharge applied to the
current number of tickets sold at the Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee County
Zoo, BMO Harris Bradley Center and the Marcus Center would raise about $2.4 million annually, assuming
the higher price had no effect on sales.

Continued on page 24

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Sales Tax Rates of Comparable Cities
Continued from page 23

Milwaukee County Sales Tax with one-half cent increase*

For every $ in
taxable purchases
$10
$100
$1,000

Current One-half
sales tax
cent increase
.56¢
$5.60
$56.00

.61¢
$6.10
$61.00

7.78%
Minneapolis

Total
increase
.05¢
.50¢

7.0%

5.6%

Milwaukee

$5.00

*Calculated pre Miller Park tax expiration in 2018
Note: For Milwaukee County to levy additional sales tax, legislative approval would be required.

7.62%
Denver

7.85%

Kansas City

Oklahoma City

While property taxes are relatively high in Wisconsin
with only 11 states ranking higher, the Milwaukee region’s
5.6% sales tax is 99th lowest of the country’s 108
metropolitan areas.

9.5%
Chicago

Pittsburgh

6.0%

Baltimore

7.0%

Indianapolis

6.875%

8.37%

2 4 | C u l t u ra l & E n te r ta i n m e n t C a p i ta l N e e d s Ta s k Fo rc e

Source: Tax Foundation

For every $ in
taxable purchases

Nashville

7.78%
Raleigh
7.25%
Charlotte

8.125%

San Antonio

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Funding
sources and
uses
The “Sources and Uses” scenarios were presented to the full task force in
September, 2014 for preliminary discussion. In October, task force members
were asked to prioritize the potential funding uses. Consistent with the group’s
original focus, members placed most emphasis on meeting the capital needs
of the Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee County Zoo, Milwaukee Art
Museum and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts and on raising funds for a
new arena. While outside the group’s stated scope, shifting the operating cost
of Milwaukee County parks to a new funding mechanism and financing an
expansion of the Wisconsin Center also drew substantial interest.
The group used an online survey to narrow and focus the balance of its work.
Through this tool, a clear consensus was reached on four issues:
1. The Marcus Center, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee County
Museum, Milwaukee Public Museum, BMO Harris Bradley Center
and Wisconsin Center are regional, vs. county-specific assets.
2. Any new public funding mechanism should be limited to capital
projects vs. used to supplement operating budgets.
3. Any new public funding mechanism should feature a sunset
provision so that it expires after a given period of time.
4. A local sales tax increase is the most viable, though not the only, option
for a new public funding mechanism.

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The Task force focused on five remaining questions
at its final meeting on November 25, 2014.

1|
2|
3|
4|
5|

Should we suggest that a Milwaukee County referendum
include capital projects at designated Milwaukee County parks?

Should we encourage consideration of a pay-as-you-go
approach or an approach that allows for borrowing?

Given that a local sales tax increase has been identified as the
most viable option, should we also encourage consideration of
a consumption tax on beer, wine and/or cigarettes?

Should we encourage consideration of a ticket tax?

Should we encourage consideration of a convention center
expansion as part of a package put to referendum votes in
Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha Counties?

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While not reaching a unanimous consensus,
task force members arrived at the following
general conclusions:
Funding for parks is a separate issue from a public policy standpoint. However, assuming that a referendum ultimately
is held to determine whether citizens support additional public funding for cultural and entertainment assets,
parks should also be included if polling shows voters view this as a desirable combination.

Allowing for funds generated by a new tax to be used to support borrowing – i.e., the approach used in the case of the Miller Park
District surtax – means there cannot be a fixed-date sunset since the tax must continue until enough money has been raised to
pay off the debt. To win voter confidence, any new public funding mechanism should have a fixed end date. Other metro areas have
shown that temporary tax increases that produce concrete, positive results pave the way for voter approval of future temporary
increase designated for other improvement projects. Therefore, the preferable option is a pay-as-you-go approach that
collects a higher amount for a shorter period of time, with money for improvements raised before shovels go in the ground.
A consumption tax drew a mixed reaction but merits further consideration.
Taxes on beer and liquor are on the low side here relative to other metro areas. An increase that applies
throughout the four-county region could generate significant revenue.

A ticket tax should be ruled out. The area’s cultural and entertainment venues establish ticket prices based on ample evidence
of how high a price they can charge without triggering a significant attendance reduction. Because it is part of their mission to remain
affordable to citizens of modest means, none of our publicly funded cultural facilities charges a ticket price that covers its actual cost
of operation. Therefore, a ticket tax would be counterproductive.

While maintaining a competitive convention center should be a regional priority, the Wisconsin Center falls into a
different category than cultural and entertainment assets. Consideration should be given to expanding regional
support for the convention center through existing funding mechanisms rather than tapping a new funding source for this.

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Summary

By the time the Task Force was nearing its end, it had become clear that
the 2017 deadline set by the NBA for moving the Milwaukee Bucks to a
new venue had put the arena funding discussion on a separate, faster
track. While not as headline-grabbing, the threat to the region’s other
signature cultural and entertainment facilities deserves just as much
consideration.
The task force has completed its assignment of identifying actionable
options to address this threat. The MMAC has committed to use our work
to advance a metro-wide outreach initiative aimed at raising awareness of
the risk that the area may ultimately lose these regional assets without a
broader base of public support.
We understand that some citizens may conclude – just as several of
our own members have – that cultural and entertainment facilities do
not warrant taxpayer support. But while the ultimate outcome remains
to be seen, we know two things with certainty: Just as actions have
consequences, so too does inaction. And if our region is to lose one
or more of these community assets, it should not happen by accident.
Therefore, we are pleased to have had this opportunity to assemble
the facts, perspectives and options required for a robust, well founded
regional dialog on this quiet but consequential crisis.

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