Critics: Coliseum deal would mean tax hike

County Executive Edward Mangano says the revenue-sharing deal would provide "a giant step forward for Nassau's economy." Videojournalist: Howard Schnapp (June 22, 2011)

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Even as Nassau County officially unveiled an agreement with the Islanders for a new Coliseum Wednesday, critics said the deal would mean a property tax increase for residents countywide.

During a news conference Wednesday, County Executive Edward Mangano and Islanders owner Charles Wang said the deal would keep the team in the Coliseum until 2045 and give the county 11.5 percent of all arena revenue, plus sales, entertainment and hotel taxes.

"This is a giant step forward for Nassau's economy," Mangano said. "[For] every pretzel, hot dog and ticket, the taxpayer will receive a share."

But some raised questions about whether that revenue will directly offset the cost to homeowners.

The Legislative Budget Review Office estimates that taxes will rise by about $58 per household to cover the annual debt service. And Mangano said Wednesday that taxpayers would have to foot the bill at least until the Coliseum is built and new revenue begin to flow.

But critics say that revenue won't necessarily offset the tax increase. Instead, the money will go into Nassau's general fund, which officials could use for a variety of programs and expenditures.

George Marlin, a member of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the state monitoring board overseeing the county's finances, said that under the deal, taxpayers would be on the hook for the entire debt service -- more than $800 million.

"While it appears the economics of the project are built on optimistic assumptions and projections, nevertheless, the inescapable fact is that there will be a built-in 3 to 4 percent Coliseum property tax," Marlin said Wednesday.

But county officials predict that the revenue payments would be large enough to offset tax increases in future years.

County spokesman Brian Nevin called Marlin's comments "inaccurate, as taxpayers will clearly earn significant profits on their investment."

Under the agreement, the county expects to take in more than $28 million in revenue sharing and taxes in the first year the Coliseum is open. Debt service will likely amount to about $26 million a year. Over the 30-year life of the bond, the county estimates it will earn $400 million in profits.

On Wednesday, Mangano and Wang pointed to long-term economic benefits -- and to the dangers in not moving ahead with the new arena.

Mangano said homeowners would face higher taxes if the Islanders leave. Wang has threatened to move the team in 2015 when the current lease expires, unless a new Coliseum is built.

"The economy is not going to fix itself," Wang said. "This arena will be a catalyst for Nassau County to grow."

But developers and union leaders expressed concern that the plan does not go far enough. They noted that the deal gives Wang a lease on the entire 77 acres of property surrounding the Coliseum, while only guaranteeing the construction of a new arena and parking.

"The use of all 77 acres without a set-aside for workforce housing and the other projects we have talked about over the years gives me great concern and I'm looking forward to more clarification on this," said John Durso, Long Island Federation of Labor chief.

 

 

NASSAU COLISEUM DEAL

 

The New York Islanders have pledged to share 11.5 percent of revenue -- or at least $14 million a year -- if Nassau County builds a new Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Revenue-sharing figures are based on projections including:

 

ATTENDANCE

including luxury suites and club seats: 600,650 annually (14,650 per regular season game)

 

TICKET PRICES

$60 per ticket for regular seats ($130 per ticket for suites and club seats)

 

PLAYOFFS

Projections do not include playoff games.

 

OTHER SHOWS

76, including family events and concerts

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