CLEVELAND -- Should money raised by an extension of the sin tax be used toward the $128 million in debt service the city owes on FirstEnergy Stadium?
It's been marketed as a way to pay for stadium and arena repairs that the city and county are on the hook for because of lease obligations.
Hours after the campaign for the extension launched, two Cleveland City Council members argued it should be used for debt payoffs, creating a new issue for campaigners.
Councilmen Brian Cummins and Mike Polensek want sin tax revenue applied toward debt service costs.
They argue that the stadium improvement deal between the City and the Cleveland Browns and Cuyahoga County Council efforts to put the tax extension on the ballot moved way too fast.
"We believe, before City Council fully supports the sin tax renewal, there needs to be more discussion and deliberations on what efforts have been made to seek other revenue streams and reduce the liability and exposure to the city for funding obligations we have for the stadium debt and capital improvement/upgrades to the stadium as defined in our agreement with the Browns," they said, in a memo to City Council President Kevin Kelley.
The sin tax is projected to bring in $260 million over 20 years. So far, the proposal does not include a specific breakdown of dollars between teams or specific items that would be purchased.
At the kickoff event for the campaign, Mayor Frank Jackson said there are presently no plans to use tax revenue for debt service.
County Council's C. Ellen Connally said the money in the issue council approved putting on the ballot is to go only for repairs.
"We are very, very concerned that that money is spent properly. We aren't just going to give it away, " she said.