Akron spending tax hike on police, not arena, because public has spoken (no, really)

If you’ve been wondering what’s up with Summit County, Ohio’s plans to raise sales taxes to build a $79 million basketball arena for the University of Akron, it is no longer considering raising sales taxes to, you know, do that thing.

Summit County officials plan to ask County Council to approve a measure that would prevent a proposed sales tax increase from funding a University of Akron arena.

Instead, at an Aug. 4 County Council meeting, these officials will ask Council to adopt resolutions that will eliminate funding for the arena and instead put the increase on the ballot for public safety, criminal justice and capital needs. The new resolutions would also limit the length of the tax to 10 years, rather than the previously proposed permanent tax.

“Since the adoption of the previous resolutions, the public has informed us that there is not sufficient support among the voters to pass a sales tax issue that includes the arena,” said Pry on July 31. “As a result, we feel it is best to remove the arena project from this issue and instead focus solely on the county’s public safety and capital needs.”

Read that again. While there’s no doubt some spin going on here, the upshot is that voters didn’t want their tax money spent on sports venues when it could be spent on police and infrastructure, and the county said: Okay, whatever you guys want. I think Ohio is still in America, but maybe I missed some news…

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Akron proposes spending $7m a year on college arena, getting less than nothing in return

Summit County, Ohio is considering raising sales taxes by 0.25% to build a 9,000-seat arena for the University of Akron. That in itself isn’t all that unusual — at least the University of Akron is a public university (unlike, say, Syracuse), though traditionally that would mean the state would be paying for such things, not the county the school happens to be located in.

College sports subsidies are usually outside the scope of this site, but I want to call attention to this one because of the Cleveland Plain Dealer article reporting on the plan. It dutifully reports on the size of the proposed arena, how much luxury suites would cost, how a feasibility study determined that an arena would be “economically viable,” blah blah blah. What’s missing: Does this viability mean that the county would actually get repaid its money over time from arena revenues?

As it turns out, no, it would not. Buried deep in an article from the Akron Beacon Journal:

UA would be financially responsible if the arena lost money “up to a maximum annual amount” that still needs to be set. The university also would receive the profit if the arena made money.

So the county would pay the entire construction cost and be responsible for any major losses, but get none of the operating profits on the building. Sounds fair to me! Or as one university trustee put it:

“It is a win-win for all of the parties,” said Trustee Roland Bauer, who was in the group that put together the arena plan.

Look, I understand that daily newspaper reporters are not economists, and that they’re on deadline, and the first draft of history and all that, but is really shouldn’t be that hard to remember one simple concept: Figure out what each party in a deal is getting, not just what they’re each spending. Actual journalism — try it, you’ll like it!

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