Stadium authority says it can't make payment

Slosson: shortfall means $2.4 million for schools unavailable once again


February 15, 2002|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

Facing declines in Orioles attendance and increases in the cost of running Camden Yards, the Maryland Stadium Authority will be unable again this coming fiscal year to make its required contribution to school construction - and would like lawmakers to drop the mandate.

"We don't know how we would pay it. We would like to, but we don't see how we can with our own-source revenues," authority executive director Richard Slosson yesterday told a House of Delegates appropriations subcommittee.

The authority, which built and operates the twin-stadium Camden Yards complex, as well as convention centers in Baltimore and Ocean City, is supposed to contribute $2.4 million annually for 10 years to school construction. The payments, part of a legislative package passed in 1996 that enabled construction of PSINet Stadium, began in fiscal 2001.

The authority didn't generate the projected surplus to do that for this fiscal year, which ends June 30, and lawmakers instead designated $2.4 million in lottery funds to cover the agency's obligation.

For the coming fiscal year, the authority projects a 21 percent decline in income from Orioles rent - which is calculated as a share of team revenue - and taxes charged on Orioles and Ravens tickets compared with two years ago. Meanwhile, expenses are creeping up as Oriole Park passes the 10-year mark.

Legislative analysts raised the issue of whether the agency should be required to make the $2.4 million payments if that meant more money has to be diverted from the lottery.

"We hope you'll take that recommendation into consideration because we don't see a source for that," Slosson said.

At least one lawmaker appeared reluctant to go along with that proposal. Del. Frank S. Turner, a Howard County Democrat who is subcommittee vice chair, said, "You're still not paying the $2.4 million, and you've got to find a way to do that."

The payment is included in the authority's proposed budget for fiscal 2003, which is $1.25 million in the red.

The analysts also recommended delaying for a year the construction of a veterans memorial at Camden Yards so the money set aside for the project could be used to help balance the state's budget.

The authority had agreed to build a memorial to replace one that had been part of Memorial Stadium, which is being demolished. The authority planned to use $1.2 million left over from the $9.85 million demolition budget.

Slosson said he hoped the lawmakers wouldn't delay the project, because a commitment has been made to veterans and ground-breaking is scheduled for Memorial Day.

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