Ohio lawmakers approve bill to forgive Youngstown's debt on arena
By David Skolnick
Legislation to forgive $4.75 million in delinquent taxes and penalties owed by the city for its Covelli Centre and to make the facility tax-exempt for as long as Youngstown owns it is just a governor’s signature away from becoming law.
An amended House Bill 508, which includes the Covelli Centre tax provisions, was approved Thursday by the Ohio House in a 96-0 vote. The state Senate approved it Tuesday 29-2.
Gov. John Kasich is expected to sign the bill in the next few weeks.
“It’s great news,” said Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone. “I don’t know where we’d find $4.75 million.”
Sammarone said he wanted to thank the state legislators from Mahoning County and “when it’s all over, I’d like to thank the governor.”
A provision in the 38-page bill was specifically written for Youngstown.
“The bill authorizes a property-tax exemption for a convention center or arena owned by the largest city in a county with a population between 235,000 and 300,000. Under the act, the convention center or arena may be leased to or operated or managed by another person and still qualify for the exemption, as long as it is owned by a qualifying city.”
The bill “also provides for the abatement of unpaid taxes due in regard to an application for exemption of a qualifying convention center or arena if the application or an appeal from the denial of an application, is pending on the bill’s effective date.”
Senate Assistant Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni of Boardman , D-33rd, said, “It stayed in the bill, and it’s going to the governor. I’m pretty excited about it. The Covelli Centre is the key to growth in downtown. Without the Covelli Centre, it would hurt businesses downtown.”
The Ohio House Ways and Means Committee approved a provision on April 24 by an 8-7 vote to include the provision in the bill. It was approved by the full House a day later.
The Ohio Department of Taxation rejected the city’s longstanding request last month for tax-exempt status for the center and wanted the $4.75 million in delinquent taxes and penalties from Youngstown.
The city appealed the decision, but also asked state legislators from the area to get a waiver from the General Assembly.