State set to re­pay cir­cuit for F1 costs

Cir­cuit

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - A Con­tact Ben Wear at 4453698.

The pro­posed agree­ment — it hasn’t been drafted yet, Fire­side told the coun­cil — mir­rors one be­tween the city, the Cir­cuit Events Lo­cal Or­ga­niz­ing Com­mit­tee (a non­profit af­fil­i­ated with the track own­ers) and Cir­cuit of the Amer­i­cas for Novem­ber’s in­au­gu­ral For­mula One race. Texas Comptroller Su­san Combs this week ap­proved paying $29.3 mil­lion to the cir­cuit from the Ma­jor Events Trust Fund, a sim­i­lar state eco­nomic devel­op­ment fund used to at­tract events such as Su­per Bowls and NCAA bas­ket­ball Fi­nal Four tour­na­ments.

That money was meant to re­im­burse the cir­cuit for a sanc­tion­ing fee to For­mula One Man­age­ment, the Eng­land­based or­ga­nizer of the in­ter­na­tional race se­ries, and for other ex­penses re­lated to the race. Sim­i­larly, cir­cuit lawyer Richard Sut­tle said, state money is needed again to en­sure that Mo­toGP, V8 Su­per­cars, Amer- ican Le Mans and World En­durance Cham­pi­onships would take place next year.

“It is re­quired to lure an event we might or might not get, ab­sent that,” Sut­tle told the coun­cil.

But Coun­cil Mem­ber Kathie Tovo, who voted against the ini­tia­tive Thurs­day, noted that ticket sales have be­gun for two of the events and said that dur­ing the hour-long dis­cus­sion, she had re­ceived an email so­lic­i­ta­tion for ticket sales to a third race next year.

“Th­ese events will go on no mat­ter what we do to­day,” Tovo said.

Sut­tle said an eco­nomic study of what tax rev­enue might be gen­er­ated by the four races, and thus what would be given to the cir­cuit, “is in its in­fancy.” But he said the rough es­ti­mate is that they would spur an ad­di­tional $3.5 mil­lion to $5 mil­lion from the var­i­ous taxes, in­clud­ing the city’s share of the sales tax that wouldn’t go to race or­ga­niz­ers.

Crit­ics at the meet­ing knocked the last-sec­ond na­ture of the pro­posal, which was added to the coun­cil’s agenda Mon­day, one minute be­fore the dead­line for such changes. And Coun­cil Mem­ber Laura Mor­ri­son, the other “no” vote Thurs­day, said she was un­com­fort­able giv­ing city staff the author­ity to ne­go­ti­ate, draft and sign a doc­u­ment that, be­cause of the last-minute na­ture of the pro­posal, doesn’t yet ex­ist.

Fire­side said the new agree­ment would be based on the For­mula One deal, which last year went through sub­stan­tial re­vi­sions grow­ing from coun­cil de­bate.

Cir­cuit or­ga­niz­ers needed the quick ap­proval, Sut­tle said, be­cause state law re­quires such ap­pli­ca­tions for money from the event fund at least four months be­fore the event. The Mo­toGP race, the first of the four races, is sched­uled for April 1921. The coun­cil will not meet again un­til Jan. 17.

Coun­cil Mem­ber Bill Spel­man said if he were a state leg­is­la­tor from Wi­chita Falls, for in­stance, he would be “shocked and ap­palled” at such a deal be­cause it redi­rects tax rev­enue that oth­er­wise might be spent across the state.

“I don’t think the state is get­ting a bargain on this,” he said. But as an Austin City Coun­cil mem­ber, Spel­man said that his in­ter­est is the Austin tax­payer, and that be­cause the city keeps its added tax rev­enue from the event he would vote for the agree­ment.

“The city was bet­ter off with F1 in it,” Spel­man said, “than it would have been with­out F1 in it.”

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