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Debate grows over how to pay to maintain Milwaukee’s cultural centers

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MILWAUKEE -- There is little debate that Milwaukee's cultural centers add value to the community. But how to keep those spaces in attractive shape is what is sparking debate now.

The Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Milwaukee Public Museum -- they are all landmarks of Milwaukee's cityscape. Some say their existence is what helps attract people to the city and its surrounding communities.

Marcus Center for the Performing Arts

Marcus Center for the Performing Arts

"We know that one of the keys to drawing talent to this community is to have things that people enjoy," said John Daniels Jr., co-chair of the Cultural and Entertainment Capital Needs Task Force.

John Daniels Jr.

John Daniels Jr.

The problem is that some of those spaces require maintenance and improvements, yet have seen public funding levels drop in recent years.

The Cultural and Entertainment Capital Needs Task Force has been given the job of evaluating the situation. In a recently released report, the group says those spaces, while based in Milwaukee County, are really regional assets.

"The only way to look at this is out of the eyes of the talent that we want to attract -- and they look at this as a regional issue. And really, that's the new world," said Daniels.

The key is how to help pay for those institutions. The possibilities could include a Milwaukee County-only sales tax or even a regional sales tax.

Paul Farrow

Paul Farrow

"We are not open to that idea," said Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow.

Farrow says Waukesha County currently does not have a sales tax -- and asking residents to start one to support venues in Milwaukee County would be a tough sell. He argues that Waukesha County residents are already supporting those places simply by attending events there.

"We already support them with our straight dollars. To have that tax added on there because for whatever reason they didn't maintain the systems, didn't do the maintenance and things like that, again, I don't think that's an area that the county should be looking at," said Farrow.

Daniels tells FOX6 News we are really at the start of the conversation about the vision for these venues and the Milwaukee community. He could not give us a timeline, but says figuring out how to fund those spaces will come later.

Milwaukee Art Museum

Milwaukee Art Museum

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