The state could step in to help local governments cover the cost of providing services to the 2002 Winter Games, Utah Olympic Officer John Fowler told lawmakers.
Fowler said Tuesday there should be "more than enough money" coming into state coffers as a result of the Olympics to assist local governments facing expenses in public safety and other areas.The suggestion was in Fowler's first annual report to the Legislature on the financial impact of the Olympics, delivered Tuesday to the Sports Advisory, Legislative Management and Executive Appropriations committees.
Fowler's analysis of a recent study by the governor's office on the economic impact of the Olympics projected that state government will take in more than $47 million - plus an additional $23 million in school funds.
At the same time, Fowler said it'll cost state government about $28 million to handle the increased demand for services. That estimate includes $7 million in contingency funds as well as money for new roads and other needs.
Fowler said lawmakers need to consider the "fairness and reasonableness" of mitigating the burden that large numbers of Olympic visitors will place on some local governments, like Salt Lake City.
Besides hosting figure skating events at the Delta Center, the state's capital city will also be the center of attention for the million-plus visitors expected during the Games.
Medal awards ceremonies are set to be held at a still-to-be-decided location downtown.
Journalists from around the world will work out of the Salt Palace. And the International Olympic Committee will meet at Abravanel Hall.
No one knows yet how much money it will cost Salt Lake City to deal with the crowds. City officials have said virtually every area of government will be affected.
Other communities with Olympic events are also going to be hit with additional costs, possibly even harder than Salt Lake City. Especially places like the Heber Valley.
There, the small towns around the Wasatch Mountain State Park site of Olympic cross-country and biathlon events face huge numbers of people including athletes who are likely to live in the area during the Games.
Salt Lake City and other communities have said they expect help from the Salt Lake Organizing Committee to cover their costs. Negotiations between Salt Lake City and the organizing committee are already under way.
But Fowler said that might not be the way to go. "Local governments could go to SLOC for money. But that would be a burden (on SLOC's budget)," he told lawmakers.
Instead, he said, local governments should come to the state "and the Legislature should consider it and help out like they would for any large group, in light of the considerable tax revenues coming" to the state.
Fowler said lawmakers need to remember that the state has indemnified Salt Lake City against any losses from hosting the Games, a decision made long before the 2002 Winter Games were awarded.
"Remember, the state is the ultimate guarantor," Fowler said. Lawmakers are right to tell cities and the organizing committee to be cautious in their Olympic budgeting.
But, Fowler said, if the cities demand money from SLOC, "this could end up costing us more if we say no state money (goes to cities) and they (the cities) get it from SLOC."
Right now, cities may be worrying more about the cost of hosting the Olympics than they should, Fowler said. "There is fear rather than facts," he said.
He reminded lawmakers that Olympic organizers are in the midst of a major overhaul of their $1 billion-plus budget. The new budget, which is being prepared with the help of a $750,000 consultant, is due in October.
Money to fund the SLOC budget is coming from private sources, including television networks and corporate sponsors willing to pay millions of dollars to be associated with the Olympics. Some federal assistance is anticipated.
Fowler said Tuesday organizers may look to individuals and businesses within Utah for additional help. "I'm not talking about raising taxes, (but) of identifying those willing to support" the Olympics, he said.