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Cleveland: 'Sin tax' extension may be sought

9:23 PM, Jan 15, 2013   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- The Browns naming rights agreement with FirstEnergy has some critics revisiting the terms of the original deal that brought the new Browns back to Cleveland.

It contained the provision that granted all naming rights revenue to the team.

The city owns the stadium. The Browns lease it.

"The residents and the taxpayers get the bills and the team operator gets the money," Cleveland City Councilman Mike Polensek, a strident critic of the original deal, calling it too team-friendly.

Mayor Frank Jackson says he supports the Browns/FirstEnergy deal.

The city could have disapproved if the sponsor were an unsavory or controversial business.

The original stadium's "guess-timated" construction cost is $296 million. Some infrastructure and other improvement costs were included in separate funds, so the actual final cost has been somewhat hard to pin down.

The city still owes about $134 million and should pay off the debt in 2028.

The city gets $250,000-a-year in rent, plus revenue from ticket and parking taxes, players and personnel income taxes and hotel bed taxes from visiting fans.

It also gets use of the stadium eight days a year.

The countywide "sin tax" on alcoholic beverages and tobacco products has provided funding to build the stadium and pay for repair costs.

The city just provided the Browns about $6 million in repair costs, accelerating annual required payments.

The sin tax runs out in 2015, leaving stadium repair costs uncovered after that.

The Browns point out they've paid millions of dollars for other stadium improvements and enhancements.

All three sports teams are collaborating on an effort to try to get a sin tax extension to cover repair costs on their respective facilities.

That would require state lawmakers to "okay" putting an extension before voters.

Mayor Frank Jackson's Chief of Staff Ken Silliman told WKYC's Tom Beres that the mayor supports such an extension.

"If we don't get the sin tax extended, it will come of of the general fund of Cleveland. That's police, fire, EMS and street repairs," said Polensek.

So the choice boils down to this.

Either taxpayers who live and work in Cleveland will be saddled with future stadium repair bills.

Or smokers and drinkers will once more be asked to keep paying more for their vices.

One ironic note...the actual electricity for what will be known as FirstEnergy Stadium now comes from Cleveland Public Power.

WKYC-TV

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