The Center Square [By Jon Styf] –
The tax capture that funds debt payments for Nashville’s Music Center is intact but with additional oversight and a block on sending any of those funds to Metro Nashville’s general fund in an amended bill that passed committee Tuesday.
Senate Bill 648 was created because the legislature felt Metro Nashville was “abusing” the fund by sending excess amounts to the city’s general fund, according to Senate sponsor Jack Johnson, R-Franklin. An earlier version of the bill would have ended the tax funding for bond payment.
The $415 million Music City Center opened in 2013 with bonds backed by a fund which collects a 3% hotel/motel tax, $2 per room occupancy tax, $2 airport ground transportation tax, 1% vehicle rental tax and both state and local sales taxes from the area surrounding the convention center called the tourism development zone.
Johnson said the bill will “clarify the intent of what originally passed in 2009.” But Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, objected to a stipulation that Tennessee’s Commissioner of Finance and Administration approve anytime more than $25 million is spent on capital projects in a year, saying “there is no restriction it would be done in good faith.”
“We are not supposed to pass laws that impact one particular place based upon what that place has done over the past three years,” Yarbro added.
The amended bill passed the Senate State and Local Government Committee with a 7-2 vote and will head to the Senate Calendar Committee.
“Metro Nashville has been abusing that revenue source,” Johnson said.
The amended bill would also appoint state officers, including the comptroller, treasurer and secretary of state as non-voting members of the Board of Directors of the Music City Center.
The bill stipulates the tax fund can now be used to specifically pay for debt, debt pre-payment, maintenance, operating expenses or capital improvements at the Music City Center.
About the Author: Jon Styf, The Center Square Staff Reporter – Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies. Follow Jon on Twitter @JonStyf.