Letter: Is innkeepers tax revenue being overcommitted?

To the editor:

In the county council meeting Monday night (Nov. 20), Dave Critser said that if the innkeepers tax and the revenue from the music venue failed to pay the $12.5 million loan payment that the county would default.

All of the elected officials and all county board members (minus Paul Navarro) that voted on this project have agreed that this loan will never fall back on the county taxpayers. However, if the county were to default, we would have a reduction in our bond rating (credit score, basically), according to the president of the bank that is weighing in on financing this project. (This guy was pretty interested to hear Critser say he would allow the loan to be foreclosed on. I sent him the link to the audio.)

If the county gets in a pinch, they will have no choice but to use county taxpayer funds. They must maintain a good bond rating or we can’t borrow money at a decent rate, if we can borrow it at all.

Let me add this: The $750,000 innkeepers tax is being obligated to pay three bills. First, the $718,000 budget of the Brown County Convention and Visitors Bureau, any losses in operating the Maple Leaf, and the $559,000 loan payment.

We have a very serious problem here.

Sincerely,

Sherrie Mitchell, Brown County

Editor’s note: Council President David Critser’s exact quote in the Nov. 20 regarding a loan “default” was: “This may sound pretty stupid to you, but let’s just say, in three years, this thing goes bottom-up. It still would be here, but it goes bottom-up and Lizton Bank owns it. We start collecting property tax on it. If it goes bottom-up 10 years from now, the same (expletive) situation: The bank owns it and we start collecting property tax. Whenever this is completely done and it’s all paid for and it goes bottom-up, then the county owns a multi-million-dollar piece of property that we can sell or do whatever we want to do with it. I see no down side.”

Regarding the innkeepers tax financial commitments, the Brown County Convention and Visitors Commission and Brown County Convention and Visitors Bureau board voted in late June to “reduce the 2018 contractual payment to the CVB of innkeepers tax revenues to the extent necessary for payment of debt incurred by or on behalf of the CVC to finance the project.” The innkeepers tax was projected to bring in $852,671 for 2017. It has not been determined yet what the CVB’s cut of innkeepers tax will be in 2019, when Maple Leaf payments would start.

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