CLEVELAND -- Cuyahoga County's top official and candidate for governor Ed FitzGerald wants to base a portion of sin tax funding for stadiums and arenas on the performance of Cleveland sports teams.
FitzGerald's office says the county executive wants to create a board to determine how to tie team performance to 20 percent of the annual sin tax revenue.
That 20 percent collected from cigarettes and alcohol sales is expected to total $2.6 million annually.
The sin tax money helps pay for maintenance at Progressive Field, home of the Indians; Quicken Loans Arena, home of the Cavaliers; and FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the Browns.
FitzGerald -- the current Cuyahoga County Executive and the Democratic candidate for governor -- said the Cuyahoga County Council will have to approve the proposal.
On FitzGerald's plan for allocation of sin tax funds, Jack Schron, the Republican candidate for Cuyahoga County Executive, released this statement:
"The voters approved a renewal tax on alcohol and cigarettes that is to fund stadium improvements and the county's stadium debt. Issue 7 asked the voters to support the facilities as public assets. Tying funding allocations to team performances takes these stadiums out of the hands of the people and places them in the hands of private entities."
"The big three sports teams are not the only entities to utilize the stadiums, nor are they the only entities to create jobs and generate revenue as a result of their activities in these facilities. Any funding allocation should consider the value of the facility itself and the economic impact it has the potential to provide."
The voters have spoken and FitzGerald's proposal ignores what they voted for - a continuation of a tax for capital improvements not performance. A Schron administration will be open and collaborative and respect the will of the people."
"Cleveland's pro sports franchises are part of our identity and civic pride, and they serve as a rallying point for men and women of all ages and backgrounds," said FitzGerald.
FitzGerald spoke at length at the press conference.
"When voters approved Issue 7 last month, their minds committed to support world class facilities, and their heart hoped for Cleveland to be a championship city once again. The proposal I am announcing today is intended to operationalize the intent of Cuyahoga County residents and reward our local franchises for fielding competitive teams each year."
When the sin tax extension takes effect next year, FitzGerald's proposal will continue to direct 80 percent of all sin tax revenues towards repair, maintenance, and improvement to ensure Cleveland's three major sports facilities remain among the best in the nation.
Using industry-standard measures for evaluating facility needs and maintenance, as well as the requests submitted by each franchise during the sin tax debate, Cuyahoga County will ensure that the FirstEnergy Stadium, Quicken Loans Arena, and Progressive Field remain top-tier venues for another generation.
The remaining 20 percent of sin tax revenues would be reserved for performance bonuses presented to the team or teams that perform well each year.
The "Win Tax" bonus is designed to reward the organizations that commit themselves to giving fans a winning team and generating economic benefits for the Northeast Ohio economy. Based on projections of future sin tax revenues, the Win Tax bonus will make more than $50 million available for justified capital improvements.
"Cleveland's sports fans wear their hearts on their sleeves every year, and they deserve to know that their tax dollars are being spent in a transparent and accountable way to support our professional sports franchises," added FitzGerald. "I am hopeful that my administration can work with County Council to get the job done for all of Greater Cleveland."
In order to determine the standards for awarding Win Tax bonuses, the County will establish a Fan Advisory Network consisting of seven Cleveland sports fans who reside in Cuyahoga County.
The FAN will establish criteria for rewarding good performance and have the ability to make recommendations on allocating funding based on win percentage, conference standing, or other metrics. Applications for participation on the Fan Advisory Network will be made available at www.cuyahogacounty.us once the proposal is enacted.
In addition to requiring accountability, FitzGerald's proposal demands transparency by requiring that all work performed on the three major sports facilities is performed subject to a County Community Benefits Agreement – all contracts and capital requests will be maintained as public records.