We still need more answers about arena deal

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:14 pm

Last week, some details of a proposed public financing package for a new Milwaukee arena for the Bucks were announced.

Essentially, the public would match the $250 million pledged by the Bucks ownership group and provide discounted land, infrastructure and other improvements. Many of the details are still not public, but the outline resembles the recent rumors surrounding the deal.

I have a number of questions about the financing deal which proposes that Milwaukee County take on the greatest share of the financing relative to our share of the tax benefits – $55 million in principal or about $80 million in payments over 20 years – equal to the state and greater than the City of Milwaukee. Governor Walker’s original proposal was clearly a fairer deal for taxpayers given that all of the income taxes collected from players and the bulk of sales tax collections accrue to the State of Wisconsin.

There is significant concern that the proposed county payments can be made without necessitating cuts to other county services because the proposed funding source is “uncollected county debt.” These are significantly aged receivables and in business much of it would probably have been written down or off the books by now. The proposal says the State of Wisconsin will try to collect from people who’ve previously been unwilling or unable to pay, but if it remains uncollectable, I fear the state will then deduct millions of dollars annually from Milwaukee County’s shared revenue, which would likely lead to service cuts.

In a related matter, the Abele administration is proposing that Milwaukee County sell for $1 nearly 10 acres in the Park East area, currently valued at nearly $9 million, to Head of the Herd LLC, which is affiliated with the Bucks ownership group, which they would then develop over the next 12 years. Still up in the air is whether the Milwaukee County Board will even get to vote on the matter, with some sources saying that Abele has asked the state legislature to remove the County Board from oversight of such land sales, and perhaps provide a few other favors to further augment his power.

Join me at a public hearing scheduled for on Tuesday, June 9, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the War Memorial Center. The County Board is providing the public a forum to learn more about the proposal and voice their opinions to their elected representatives.

More details on the proposed land sale are here.

I’ve always said, “I want to keep the Bucks in Milwaukee!” Unfortunately, it seems like for $250 million we (the public) should have a stake in the team and be assured that they will never leave – think of the Green Bay Packers. Is this the right deal? Are the community benefits worth the public investment? I’m still learning the details, many questions remain and I need better answers.

I hope to see you on Tuesday.

Milwaukee County Supervisor Theodore Lipscomb Sr. represents the 1st District.

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