City to help pay Convention Center tab

January 07, 1993|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Staff Writer Staff writers Michael A. Fletcher and C. Fraser Smith contributed to this article.

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said yesterday that the city would pay part of the $150 million cost of expanding the Convention Center, a decision announced after Gov. William Donald Schaefer agreed to appoint the mayor's nominee to the Maryland Stadium Authority, which oversees the center.

Mr. Schmoke would not be specific as to how much the city would kick in, although Mr. Schaefer wants Baltimore to pick up $50 million of the cost.

"The details of the financing plan have not been worked out, so I'm not going to get into any figures," Mr. Schmoke said.

"But it is very clear that the city is going to participate in this financing plan."

Mr. Schmoke said he would be sending a representative to a meeting tomorrow with state budget officials, Maryland Stadium Authority staff members and financial consultants to discuss the financing possibilities.

Meanwhile in Annapolis, Mr. Schaefer confirmed that he would appoint the mayor's nominee, city Finance Director William R. Brown Jr., to the Stadium Authority -- breaking a stalemate with Mr. Schmoke that had held the Convention Center expansion plans hostage for nine months.

Mr. Schaefer said he asked authority member William K. Hellmann, a former state transportation secretary and longtime ally, to resign from the board to make room for Mr. Brown. He said he was willing to make the appointment, "if that's what it took," to get the Convention Center project before the Maryland General Assembly this year.

But getting the legislature to approve a financing plan for a project in Baltimore may be the most difficult task, given the political rift between the city and Montgomery and Prince George's County.

Lawmakers from those counties have said that cutting money for fTC the Convention Center is one way they might get revenge for city votes in Annapolis in support of a budget-cutting plan that hurt Prince George's and Montgomery the most.

Mr. Schaefer indicated yesterday that he believes there is support in the legislature for the project. He specifically mentioned Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, saying, "Mr. Miller has talked about his interest in helping the city; this is his chance."

Mr. Schmoke also seemed to downplay the threat to the project in the legislature, saying, "When you get a bill passed, you don't necessarily need a unanimous vote."

Page Walters Boinest, the governor's press secretary, said the Schaefer administration plans to work with the legislative leaders in developing an "acceptable" financing plan for the Convention Center.

That plan would be sent to lawmakers as a supplement to Mr. Schaefer's capital budget, Miss Boinest said.

A study prepared for the Maryland Stadium Authority shows that the expansion and renovation costs could be paid for with the sale of revenue bonds, which would require that part of the sales tax and hotel-occupancy tax revenue generated by the Convention Center be earmarked for repaying the principal and interest on the bonds.

Miss Boinest said the Schaefer administration wants to pay the state's $100 million share of the cost with proceeds from the sale of general obligation bonds over the next two years.

But including additional costs in the capital budget would require some financial juggling because Maryland has a self-imposed Capital Debt Affordability cap that this year limits to $350 million the amount of general obligation bonds the state can sell.

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