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Aldermen question Mayor Barrett about Bucks arena financing deal

It took months to find out what plan state lawmakers developed to help pay for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena. But it took just one extra day for city leaders to get answers to their questions about it.

Common council president Michael Murphy called a special committee meeting Friday afternoon. It allowed council members to ask Mayor Tom Barrett about the negotiations between the Bucks and civic leaders that had mainly been held in private.

\"Why is there any public subsidy at all,\" alderman Bob Bauman asked the mayor. \"Why are we putting any public money into this project?\"

The \"Cheaper to Keep Them\" plan splits the cost of a $500 million arena between the Bucks and a combination of city, county, state and Wisconsin Center District funds.

The state would pay $4 million a year for 20 years, with contributions capped at $80 million. Milwaukee County would pay $4 million a year over 20 years by collecting unpaid debts. The Wisconsin Center District would use existing tax streams from hotel rooms, car rentals and food and beverage sales.

Meanwhile, the City of Milwaukee would contribute $47 million -- $35 million of which would pay for a parking garage near the new arena. The other $12 million would be in the form of a tax incremental financing (or \"TIF\") District, collecting increased taxes from developments around the arena.

\"For our $35 million investment in a parking structure, we have a hard investment,\" Barrett said. \"We have an asset that we have to show for it.\"

Milwaukee would split profits from the parking garage with the Bucks. The team would use its share to help pay for ongoing maintenance at the new arena. Those costs would all assumed by the team. The garage would have approximately 1,200 spaces.

A newly formed entertainment district would own the new arena. The Bucks would lease the arena and keep all profits from events there.

\"A lot of the citizens are not supportive of this package at least at this point in time,\" alderman Murphy said.

The council president says his biggest concern with the plan isn't necessarily the tax dollars. Instead, he wants the public involved in the process and for them to benefit from job creation.

\"If citizens heard more about what this means in terms of jobs and development, that could play a factor,\" Murphy said.

Numbers from the governor's office estimate the creation of 15,000 temporary and permanent jobs -- an estimate the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce sees as conservative.

Mayor Barrett wants the jobs to help Milwaukee citizens first and foremost.

\"We were the ones who led the charge to make sure that people from this community were going to be involved in the construction of this project,\" Barrett said.

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