Saturday, September 04, 1999

Plan: Issue bonds for Sabin center

Portune, Cissell: Secures city's expansion costs

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Two Cincinnati City Council members will present a plan next week that they say would secure a huge chunk of the city's share for expansion of the convention center, estimated to cost at least $350 million.

        Council members Todd Portune and Jeanette Cissell recommend that the city issue municipal bonds and use at least $51 million to expand the city-owned Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center.

        The bonds would be repaid over 30 years out of the general fund, an increase in the city's hotel tax and private contributions.

        Expansion proponents think that money, combined with funds already secured, will leverage more public dollars from Hamilton County and the state legislature.

        Delta Air Lines already has committed $30 million for naming rights of the expanded convention center. In addition, City Council approved a 1.5 percentage point increase in the citywide hotel tax, which is expected to generate enough money to support $17 million in bonds for the project.

        Mr. Portune said Friday the proposal will be laid out to city council next week, and he hopes to have a vote on it by the end of September.

        “The $51 million coupled with the raising of the bed tax and private donations all add up to the number we need in order to show the state that the community is committed to this,” Mr. Portune said.

        Another council memberwas hesitant to support the plan.

        Councilman Tyrone Yates said he first wants to see the business community's support for an expanded convention center before committing any city money.

        “This proposal may be putting the cart before the horse,” Mr. Yates said. “The business community has pledged $20 million, and that money is not yet in our treasury. It should be before we take other steps.”

        Expansion proponents say the convention center needs to be enlarged to be competitive.

        There are several other aspects to the Portune-Cissell funding proposal, including:

        • An annual cap on spending from the city's general fund at 1.55 percent above the 1998 budget level. The cap would remain in effect until 2010.

        • At least $70 million from the bond issuance would be funneled into the “Rebuild Cincinnati” fund, which is to promote economic development and rebuild the city's infrastructure.

        • A tax credit for each year of the plan, although the exact amount of the rollback has yet to be worked out.

        Mr. Portune said the plan will ensure continued growth of the city's economy.


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