In Focus

Documents: Most tax dollars raised from NBA All-Star event going back Houston organizing committee

Friday, October 04, 2013

The big game was in February, a big deal for the Bayou City. So big, Comptroller Susan Combs' office said the state would see almost $12.8 million more tax dollars.

But as part of the deal to host the game, the Houston organizing committee agreed to all sorts of Toyota Center improvements. It's all in the contract and it's all legal. Big screens and small screens, new countertops, computer equipment and carpet.

And that's not all.

It's all allowable under a program that uses Texas tax dollars to attract big events that will theoritically boost the economy. But when we finally got the bills for the big game, the local host committee wants 97 percent of the tax dollars back to pay for those improvements -- 97 percent.

When we first found out about the wish list months ago, state lawmakers threatened to change the program forever.

"It's time to reform that, probably well past time," State Senator Kirk Watson told us at the time.

The rules did change, but most expenses allowable under the old law are still allowed now.

New documents reveal just what the Texas tax money paid for.

The program was originally designed decades ago so that cities could get reimbursed for things like police services and garbage pickup and increased traffic control.

The city will be reimbursed $325,000 for HPD services, which is two and a half percent of the $12 million in state tax money. The rest: $11,000 to clean the outisde walls and roof of the Toyota Center; $370,000 for new-and-improved carpet and floor covering inside at Toyota Center, the contract with the NBA apparently called for it along with Wi-Fi for whole arena.

It totals $476,000 tax dollars, but now you can watch the game and check scores on line at the same time. Add another $243,000 for plasma TVs around concourses, suites and elevators at Toyota Center; and dont forget the biggest single expense is $4.5 million for that center hung big screen.

The tax money is just one part of the overall economic impact of a game like this. Local businesses were expected to get a big boost from the game.

We reached out to the folks from the Rockets and the host committee who are asking for the tax reimbursement; they declined repeated requests to talk about the upgrades.

Find Ted on Facebook at ABC13TedOberg or on Twitter at @tedoberg

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