CIB facing tough decisions over Pacers deal

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There are many questions swirling around on where the city will get millions of dollars for a new long-term deal with the Indiana Pacers. One option includes raising certain taxes.

The current three-year "bridge" deal expires at the end of June. It gave the Pacers $10 million a year to help cover the operating costs of the Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Capital Improvement Board (CIB), which runs the city's sports venues, faces tough decisions.

While Pacers Sports & Entertainment President Jim Morris has repeatedly said he wants a long-term deal, one "20 years or more." He's also said the team will need more financial support to make it work.

During an interview in mid-August, Morris told Eyewitness News, "Our core operating expenses are considerably more than $10 million, so $10 million is not enough, but we also understand it's tough times for everybody."

That includes the city. The talks begin as the mayor and City-County Council Democrats continue arguing over how to plug a budget shortfall over the long term.

Democrats want the CIB to pitch in $15 million from its reserves to help fund police and fire recruit classes and other public safety needs. It's a move the mayor and CIB strongly oppose saying the CIB's reserves have been set aside for "future obligations."

"I don't believe it's a showdown but we're not going to give in on public safety," Council President Maggie Lewis said.

Lewis, who also sits on the CIB, said it's a matter of deciding the city's priorities.

"There's not an endless pot of money so we have to decide which goes to Pacers and which goes to public safety," she said.

Ideally, Lewis said they can find a way to fund both. One option on the table is raising the car rental tax two percent and the admissions or ticket tax four percent. The ticket tax would be paid by fans attending a Pacers, Colts or Indians game.

Lewis said raising those taxes would generate about $6 million a year, not enough to cover a long-term deal with the Pacers. She also noted that many councilors might be reluctant to "go on record saying they raised taxes."

Lewis also favors looking at using revenue from the downtown TIF district, especially since it's brought in much more than expected.

Asked what options the CIB planned to pursue, CIB president Ann Lathrop said, "I would not want to guesstimate if or when those things will happen."

The CIB and Pacers do have seven months to work out a deal, but given the city's finances, it could prove significantly more challenging to do this time around.