IndyAustin Launches NEW Petition Drive to Put
Soccer Stadium Deal on the May 2019 Ballot
Taxpayers Deserve a Vote on City Council Plan to Give Away $250 Million in Corporate Subsidies
and Property Tax Waivers to a Private, For-Profit Sports Team
September 27, 2018 — IndyAustin, together with Austin citizens and local businesses, has begun gathering signatures for a petition that will trigger a public vote on $250 million in taxpayer subsidies and property tax waivers the Mayor and City Council have earmarked for a soccer stadium for Anthony Precourt, owner of Precourt Sports Ventures (PSV).
Precourt, the California-based owner of a Major League Soccer team in Columbus, Ohio, has led a multi-year, and at times secretive, effort to move his team from Columbus to the more lucrative Austin market by leveraging taxpayer subsidies to finance the move. IndyAustin commits to gathering the 20,000 signatures necessary to secure a spot on the May 2019 ballot in order to overturn what could be the single biggest corporate giveaway in Austin history.
During a special called meeting on August 15, 2018, the Mayor and City Council voted 7-4 to authorize the city manager to sign an agreement that will allow Precourt to lease 24 acres of public land at McKalla Place for the stadium. The agreement sets Precourt’s lease payments to the City at zero dollars for the first five years, and then at 75 percent below fair market value beginning in year six, while requiring the City to help him avoid paying all property taxes on the land and stadium that he would otherwise owe.
Without a petition to put the soccer subsidy deal before voters, Precourt will pay zero dollars in property taxes for decades, meaning hundreds of millions of dollars in lost tax revenue for the City, AISD, Travis County, Central Health and ACC. At the same time, with FY 2018-19 budgets just passed by the City of Austin and Travis County, the average homeowner in Austin will see their tax bill go up by $110 over last year and pay $5,180 in city and county taxes and fees.
“It is outrageous that the Mayor has facilitated this special deal while homeowners are expected to carry the burden of increased property taxes in a city that’s unaffordable as it is. And it’s not just homeowners — locally owned iconic small businesses are struggling and closing due to out-of-control property taxes. Threadgill’s is the latest example but won’t be the last unless voters do something about it,” said Francoise Luca, president of the Gracywoods Neighborhood Association, which encompasses the McKalla tract. “The stadium deal is the biggest corporate subsidy in Austin history, and voters should have a say if the Mayor and City Council shifts the tax burden away from a billionaire business owner and onto our local businesses, homeowners and renters.”
A study by City of Austin staff had previously designated McKalla Place as the best City-owned real estate asset on which to build affordable housing. Despite that, the soccer stadium deal was fast-tracked by City Council based on seemingly arbitrary deadlines imposed by Precourt, another reason IndyAustin and its supporters are petitioning for the ballot measure.
“The City Council’s transfer of the McKalla tract — prime property for affordable housing and taxpaying development — to be used for a tax-free soccer stadium shows that Austin taxpayers cannot trust the Council to make good use of City-owned properties,” said Austin attorney and former Travis County Judge Bill Aleshire. “I support this petition drive to make the Council get voter approval, like is already required for parkland, before other City-owned land is handed over for sports boondoggles.”
Austin has long been faced with an affordable housing crisis and the McKalla Place giveaway is only the latest chapter in that story. In 2013, Austin voters passed a $65 million affordable housing bond. Now, in the aftermath of approving a soccer subsidy that gives away public land designated for affordable housing, the Mayor and City Council are asking voters to approve a record-high $250 million affordable housing bond. That bond will be part of $1 billion in bonds on the ballot in the November 6 election.
If passed, the new housing bond could lead to another round of property taxes increases. And without the petition, Precourt would likely still pay zero dollars in property taxes while taxes go up again for homeowners and small businesses.
“I am baffled as to how the Mayor and a majority of Council can deny citizens the right to vote on this stadium giveaway and ask us for $1 billion in bonds! But what can you expect when the Council voted for the city manager to sign the final soccer deal? This publicly subsidized private stadium deal will collapse when enough people smell the stench of frittering away public dollars and public land in the middle of an affordability crisis,” said David Jones, co-founder of IndyAustin.
Beginning this week, hundreds of volunteers will be canvassing the city at events, in public places and door-to-door, as IndyAustin gathers the 20,000 signatures needed to give taxpayers a voice before it’s too late to undo Precourt’s massive subsidies and property tax exemptions.
For more information about the petition and getting it on the ballot in May 2019 so voters can decide, please visit indyaustin.org.
IndyAustin is dedicated to providing citizens their most powerful tool guaranteed by the Texas Constitution — the right to petition for a public vote when their local government fails them. We organize voters across party, geography and all other divides to form a more perfect union for political reform and fiscal accountability. IndyAustin is a registered specific-purpose political committee with the City of Austin. We do not endorse candidates. Donations are not tax deductible. For more information please visit indyaustin.org
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To view the petition and details about it, go to the home page of IndyAustin.org and click on the Sucker.
The full petition page with details and instructions is here.
Linda Curtis, contact@IndyAustin.org * 512.657.2089