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Downtown tax for new Rays ballpark looking iffy

Tampa Bay RaysIf a new downtown Tampa ballpark is to happen, it probably won’t happen with the help of downtown property taxes, as politicos eye alternative uses of the proceeds of a TIF district.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and his staff have held out the possibility of using the proceeds of a downtown TIF, Downtown Tampa Community Redevelopment Area, to help pay for a new downtown Tampa Bay Rays ballpark. The proceeds are currently used to pay down bonds on the downtown convention center, but the final payments are expected in 2015, in theory freeing up some $13 million anually for spending on a new ballpark.

Not so fast, say other government officials; a pot of $13 million generated annually is way too large for other Tampa elected officials as well as Hillsborough officlals to pass on. While one could argue property taxes generated by a downtown TIF district should be spent on downtown projects, that logic isn’t shared by everyone — and especially not from some key elected officials. From the Tampa Tribune:

At least one county commissioner, Victor Crist, believes Hillsborough County has a right to some of that money, which would eat into the pot of money available for a future stadium. Meantime, the chairman of the governmental entity that controls those dollars, Tampa City Councilman Frank Reddick, doesn’t approve of using them for a sports stadium.

The pot of money in question won’t come up for debate for two more years, but already people are making plans to claim it.

“It is a source of revenue that will have everybody’s attention,” County Commissioner Al Higginbotham said.

Things have been quiet on the Rays ballpark front; after a flurry of activity this offseason the proposals have stopped and several plans are seemingly on hold.

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