HCTRA funds to repay a HC Sports & Convention Corp loan (updated)

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See if you can follow the (Harris County) money in this KTRH-740 story:

Presently, Harris County uses “hotel-motel taxes” to pay for operations at the Reliant Center, including electric bills, and property insurance. The tax money also goes to pay off debt owed for construction of the center. Hotel-motel taxes are not considered “local” tax dollars because they’re generally paid by business travelers and other out-of-town visitors.

However, county budget documents reviewed by KTRH show a local tax bailout may be needed to keep the center open. The amount owed for utilities, insurance and debts totals $31.8 million. Total revenues from hotel-motel taxes are averaging $21 million.

Raycraft said 30 percent-plus increases in the cost of utilities and property insurance are boosting the Reliant Center funding shortfall. The bill for utilities went from $8.4 million last year to $10.9 million this year. Property insurance jumped from $2.6 million to $3.9 million in one year.

And those are not the only financial problems the county faces with Reliant Center.

On Tuesday, county commissioners will consider paying back a $19 million loan made in 2001 to the Harris County Sports & Convention Corp. by RCM Financial, Houston Texans’ owner Bob McNair’s company. According to Raycraft, the sports corporation is unable to pay the debt by the deadline. The plan up for commissioner’s approval Tuesday would use revenues from the Harris County Toll Road Authority to repay the loan. That cash would then have to be paid back to the toll road system by the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority.

At least one person on Commissioner’s Court is not fond of the idea. “It’s a shell game,” said commissioner Sylvia Garcia. “I think that’s not what the money was intended for. Toll road money should be for building toll roads.”

I got lost in the fourth paragraph, but it doesn’t sound good.

But other commissioners, like Steve Radack, said they have no problem with the deal. Radack said he trusted the sports authority to pay the money back. The sports authority also gets its money from hotel taxes.

That’s why the red flags went up. The Sports Authority should have been shuttered when the opportunity arose.

UPDATE: Commissioners Court approved the loan payback:

Harris County will help pay off a $26 million loan for land the Houston Texans use.

It’s the property that houses the Texans practice bubble and a parking lot.

Tuesday, Harris County Comissioners Court approved the loan 4 to 1.

Sylvia Garcia was the lone dissenter.

The Harris County Convention and Sports Corporation is unable to pay.

Now the county will step in, using money from the Harris County Toll Road Authority.

The loan has a 5.5 percent interest rate.

Lots of hands are in the hotel/motel tax revenue pot. Too many? Maybe.

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Anne Linehan is a co-founder of blogHOUSTON.