School Board Approves Revenue Sharing Deal With Arena
In a unanimous vote Monday afternoon, the Columbus City School Board approved a revenue-sharing deal with the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority.
School board members agreed to accept $586,000 a year from the facilities authority instead of tax dollars. The authority will ask the General Assembly to make Nationwide Arena permanently exempt from property taxes so it can avoid a hefty tax bill as its property tax abatement expires.
Board member Ramona Reyes said she wanted the district to get more money, but in the end, she voted for the deal.
“It is a bit out of our hands because it is in the General Assembly. So we kind of are dealt with what we got, and I hope that when the General Assembly does a vote, they consider our students," Reyes said.
The General Assembly will decide whether redevelopments to buildings that belong to the arena will be taxable as part of the deal, potentially benefiting the school district. The authority said both are unlikely.
School board president Gary Baker said he was motivated by the deal, in part, because it helped the district avoid costly and lengthy lawsuits. The facilities authority disputes the arena’s current value which could have ended up in litigation.
“This really seems to me to be the very best outcome that we could achieve. I’m happy with it. And I do believe it’s mutually beneficial," Baker said.
Columbus City School Superintendent Dan Good added the deal provides the district with steady income.
“As we know from looking at trends of other arenas, they tend to devalue overtime," Good said. "So regardless of the value of the arena in the future, it could be valued at far less than the purchase price, it still guarantees that stream of revenue that allows the board to plan for the future.”
There are only two days left for legislators to approve the authority's exemption request. Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority executive director Don Brown remains confident the General Assembly will approve the tax exemption request before the holiday break.
“If we fall short of getting General Assembly approval this year, we would ask the General Assembly to take that into consideration. And if it were to approve it next year, make the approval, extend it back to January 1, 2016," Brown said.
Also as part of the deal, the school district can use the arena for four days each year to hold high school graduations. That's an in-kind value between $70,000 and $100,000.