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As Tax Receipts Lag, Another Hole Opens in Chicago Budget

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To Soldier Field
To Soldier Field

Another entry in the stadium boondoggle file – an already-overstuffed folder full of corporate welfare for the 1%. They get to own the teams, act like big shots, but we the taxpayers get to pay the debts.

A recent audit of the city-state stadium authority’s books revealed that for the first time, hotel tax revenues are not yielding the amount needed to pay off the debt that the agency took on 10 years ago to rebuild Soldier Field.

The shortfall means that Chicago’s bottom line, which is already sagging, will take yet another hit, because the city is required to come up with the money under the Soldier Field deal.

Officials for the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority said Thursday that the shortfall would not be as bad as it was first feared and should not be repeated next year. Still, one of Mr. Emanuel’s new appointees to the authority’s board looked at the debt service payments due in the next 20 years and expressed concern that the problem could get far worse, even if tourism revived and hotel tax revenues rose again.

“The city has to begin to plan for some significant outlays,” said Jim Reynolds, an investment manager and new member of the board, who was attending his first agency board meeting since Mr. Emanuel replaced the three hold-over mayoral appointees on the seven-member panel.

Thursday’s meeting took place in the agency’s offices at U.S. Cellular Field, built on the South Side more than 20 years ago to keep the White Sox from moving to Florida. State lawmakers created the I.S.F.A. to guide the ballpark’s $150 million construction and then to operate the facility.

The new fiscal problem for City Hall, however, stems from the Soldier Field deal and represents another time bomb that Mr. Emanuel inherited from Mayor Richard M. Daley. To keep the Bears in Chicago, Mr. Daley pushed successfully for the authority to issue almost $400 million in bonds for the $606 million Soldier Field renovation.

 

(click here to continue reading As Tax Receipts Lag, Another Hole Opens in Budget – NYTimes.com.)

and Mayor Emanuel isn’t so happy about the mess the Daley Gang left behind:

The $1.1 million shortfall was disclosed in an independent audit obtained by the Tribune through a records request. The firm, , declined comment.

Earlier in the day, Emanuel said that Chicago taxpayers should not be treated like cash machines to help cover renovations at the two sports facilities. He said he wants a healthy Chicago sports industry to add the city’s quality of life, but it should not come at taxpayer expense.

“I don’t want the taxpayers of the city of Chicago to be treated as if they’re just an ATM machine; they’re not,” he said at an unrelated news conference.

The mayor recently replaced three members of the authority’s board with veterans of the financial services industry and said he “gave them clear instructions” about what role he wanted them to play.

“You’re not there for yourself, you’re not there socially, you’re there as the voice of the taxpayers of the city of Chicago,” Emanuel said.

(click here to continue reading Mayor: Don’t use taxpayers as ‘ATM machine’ to cover costs at U.S. Cellular Field, Soldier Field – chicagotribune.com.)

The clouds in july are mostly in the plain
The clouds in july are mostly in the plain

whether or not there was an extra $1,000,000 the City of Chicago was liable for or not, this year, we still covered most of the costs of both Soldier Field and U.S. Cellular Field, and pay at least $5,000,000 every year, and sometimes more:

This was the first time the tax revenue fell short since 2001, when a new law allowed the authority to issue bonds for renovations at Soldier Field – changes that at the time officials like then-Mayor Richard Daley and others said were needed to keep the Bears in Chicago.

At the time, the agency provided more than $400 million toward the $600 million project, which included some money for work at U.S. Cellular Field. The ISFA increased its debt, but the city agreed to cough up the extra money if hotel tax revenue fell short. Soldier Field reopened in 2003, but cost overruns made the total for the entire project about $690 million. A Tribune analysis showed the public portion was actually about $432 million.

The $1.1 million transfer was disclosed in an October independent audit that the Tribune obtained via a public records request. This goes beyond the annual $5 million subsidy the city provides already.

…More recently, the agency has come under scrutiny for its deal with the White Sox. The Tribune and WGN-TV reported last month that the authority picked up the $7 million tab to build a restaurant outside the stadium but allowed the team to keep the profits.

(click here to continue reading Chicago taxpayers helped pay for work at U.S. Cellular Field, Soldier Field – Chicago Tribune.)

Written by Seth Anderson

December 3rd, 2011 at 9:31 am

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