Performing arts center may be in line for $143 million bonanza for operations
By Risa Polansky
With community redevelopment dollars helping pay Miami-Dade's construction debt on the downtown performing arts center, the freed county funds that used to cover debt payments may mean $143 million toward arts center operations over the next 20 years — on top of the existing $7.6 million annual county subsidy.
Commissioner Bruno Barreiro aims to earmark the savings for the Arsht Center and the New World Symphony campus under construction in Miami Beach.
As part of the 2007 "global agreement" that laid the groundwork for a Marlins ballpark, Miami-Dade and Miami commissioners agreed the city's Omni redevelopment agency would in part take over arts center construction debt payments, freeing convention development tax revenue the county had been using to pay off the debt.
It's long been reported those tourist taxes would help fund the baseball stadium.
The mega-deal says "the city and county acknowledge that these funds are necessary to provide for the city and county contributions to the Baseball Project."
Still, officials have cried misconception, insisting the freed tourist tax money was never tied to baseball and always meant to stay with the arts center.
It did in this year's budget.
Mr. Barreiro's proposal would cement that policy, as well as reaffirm the county's $27 million commitment to the symphony.
The performing arts center would receive between now and 2030 a projected $74.4 million toward general operating expenses and an endowment, $28.5 million for maintenance and an operating reserve and $40.5 million for education and outreach programs, according to a Dec. 9 memo from County Manager George Burgess and budget chief Jennifer Glazer-Moon.
The county anticipates paying roughly $2 million a year over 14 years to keep its promise to New World, once seemingly threatened by the Marlins financing.
Stadium debt service is to cost about $2.4 billion in tourist taxes over 40 years.
"…There remains limited capacity for other eligible projects including the New World Symphony," Mr. Burgess wrote in a memo earlier this year, referring to commissioners' 2008 order to contribute annual payments totaling $27 million.
His latest memo says administrators have "worked continually" to make that happen, "although it took longer than initially anticipated due to the economic downturn which has significantly limited the Convention Development Tax revenues anticipated to be available" annually.
Attached projections show the redevelopment agency's contribution to the arts center loans will free up about $4.5 million in convention taxes in 2010, rising gradually to more than $13.6 million in 2030.
Payments to the symphony are to sit at about $2 million a year through 2023. Payouts to the arts center for maintenance and education are also in that range.
Contributions for operations and an endowment begin in 2010 at less than $300,000 but ramp up gradually to more than $10 million in 2030.
Commissioners in committee last week gave initial approval.
Joe Martinez voted no, calling it a "bait and switch."
The full commission is to vote Jan. 21.