Friday, May 09, 2008

FOIA Friday - May 9, 2008

For quite some time, I've been tracking the spending and financial plan for the new arena being built by the Lucas County Commissioners.

The first (and, so far, only) public document on the financing of the arena was a part of the 'study' done in 2006 when I was still on the Board of County Commissioners. I analyzed the financial plan and shared my observations and concerns. I've done numerous follow-ups on the subject as bits and pieces of information were released by the commissioners.

The County Commissioners have a good website and Jody Balogh, Clerk of the Board, is extremely timely in updating the agendas and meeting reports of the Commission. I used the search function and located all resolutions relating to the arena project. I then created a spreadsheet of all the spending that's been authorized for the project.

So far, the Commissioners have approved (although not all the money has been expended) $31,750,000 in spending for the arena. However, the only source of revenue they've voted upon is the $18,500,000 in bonds issued by the County Treasurer to provide 'seed money' for the project. Even this amount really can't count as 'revenue' because the money was borrowed and will need to be repaid. This means they are currently about $13,250,000 in the hole.

Even if they transfer the money collected from the additional 2% hotel-motel tax, that's only about $1 million from 2007, so they're still in the hole.

Taking advantage of Ohio's public records law and the excellent service the public gets from the County Auditor's office, I requested information on all monies into and out of the arena account. This was easy to do as the account number for expenditures is listed on the County Commissioner's resolution.

The information from the Auditor's office shows that there is a budget of $33,206,455.66. So I asked where that $33 million came from if the only revenue has been the borrowed $18.5 million from the bonds. The answer? That additional money was from the Commissioner's budget.

So I'm now in the process of tracking down the source of the additional $14.5 million, especially in light of the public statements that the arena must pay for itself and no tax dollars (other than the hotel-motel tax) were going to be used for funding.

I've been working on this for about a week already and will keep you posted on what I find.

Other FOIA Friday posts from around the blogosphere:

Skip Murphy's efforts to get his local school board to put data on their website. I guess Chris Myers isn't the only person fighting this good fight.

2 comments:

navyvet said...

Awesome....

Thank you Maggie....

Tim Higgins said...

County Commissioners Beware!

You may think that you can get away with your usual public funding shell game, but Maggie's on the case.

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