The Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency made a fast break to Capitol Hill Friday to lobby for a bill to finance land and parking for a new Utah Jazz basketball arena in downtown Salt Lake City.
But some school and library officials may cry foul because HB390 would increase the RDA's taxing powers at the expense of the Salt Lake City School District and the Salt Lake City Library System.The bill would take 20 percent of the tax revenue generated by new development in the RDA's downtown taxing district, or $1.8 million annually, away from the library system, school district and other taxing entities.
That $1.8 million, under the bill, would be returned to the RDA to finance a $20 million, 14-year bond to build a parking facility and buy west downtown land on which the Jazz would build its arena.
But some City Council members, who serve as RDA board members, were concerned about the bill because it means an $85,000 annual loss to the city library's budget and a $372,000 annual net loss to the school district.
"That seems to me to be the wrong way to go," Councilman Tom Godfrey said.
Salt Lake City School District Superintendent John Bennion was equally disturbed.
"It's money we can't afford to lose," he said.
District Business Manage Gary Harmer said the bill would mean a loss of $372,000 annually in unprotected capital improvement and voted leeway funds, money that could go toward helping the city build a swimming pool.
Additionally, the library could loose $85,000 in annual revenue, Director Dennis Day said.
"We were clearly counting on that money coming back in taxes available to the library,"he said.
But Mayor Palmer DePaulis, who met this week with Gov. Norm Bangerter to lobby for the bill, told the RDA the bill was needed to convince Jazz officials to build an arena downtown.
"This is probably the only substantial tool to build an arena. The alternative is not very good," the mayor said.
Under the bill, land financed by the RDA would be leased for $1 yearly to Jazz owner Larry Miller to build a projected 18,500-seat arena, now slated for Block 79 between South Temple, First South, and Third and Fourth West streets.
Miller and other Jazz officials were out of town attending the NBA All-Star game and unavailable for comment, a Jazz spokeswoman said.
However, Miller can borrow $35 million privately to help build the arena with assistance from the RDA for land and parking, RDA Chairwoman and City Councilwoman Florence Bittner said in a memo to the RDA.
Under a 1983 law, the RDA kept 100 percent of the $8 million tax increment it collected until 1988, when 20 percent was "rolled back" and given to Salt Lake County, the school district, and library system.
The bill, scheduled for debate before the House State and Local Affairs Committee Friday, would return the 20 percent roll back to the RDA for the next 20 years, the life of the RDA under current law.
Can't afford to lose
-Under HB390, the district would lose $12.3 million, or $880,000 annually, over the next 14 years.
-State law requires that $7.1 million, or $507,000 annually, be repaid from state funds.
-That means the district will lose $5.2 million, or $372,000 annually, over the next 14 years. The money pays salaries and capital improvements.