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Published: 8/8/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Council moves to ensure piece of casino prizes

BY CLAUDIA BOYD-BARRETT
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The city of Toledo wants to make sure it gets a piece of the action when someone hits the jackpot at the Hollywood Casino.

The Bell administration is seeking to modify the city's tax code to ensure it gets to keep 2.25 percent of any prizes of more than $1,200.

Hollywood Casino, which opened May 29, is already deducting the tax from winnings to comply with a state law passed in June.

By modifying the local code, the city of Toledo will be brought into line with the state legislation and ensure it can hold on to its local share of taxes on winnings, even from prizes awarded to people who live outside of area, officials said.

So far, the city has received a $16,000 check for winnings from the month of June, Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat said. Eighty-four percent of that money was won by people who live outside Toledo, he added.

Law Director Adam Loukx estimated the total annual income from the tax would be about $150,000.

Mr. Herwat said that money has not been budgeted for, but it could be used to help alleviate some of the city's funding shortfall.

"This is potentially a way for us to use [the money] for operating purposes and not take it out of the CIP," he indicated, referring to the city's practice of taking money from the capital improvements program fund to plug gaps in the general budget.

Also Tuesday, council held a special meeting in which it reversed a vote from July 31 that denied a permit to establish a charter school in downtown Toledo.

Now, the school called Nexus Academy of Toledo at 600 Jefferson Ave. will be able to move ahead after a 10-2 council approval of the permit Tuesday.

Councilmen Steven Steel and Lindsay Webb voted against the permit.

Council reconsidered the vote for the permit at the request of District 1 Councilman Tyrone Riley, who abstained from voting on the permit July 31, saying later he couldn't decide which side to favor. That was a violation of council rules, which state a member may abstain if he has a conflict of interest.

Mr. Riley said he had been unaware of the council rule. He said Tuesday he decided to vote in favor of allowing the school to open after visiting the site and talking to officials there.

"Based upon the programs and curriculum they're proposing to offer, I think it would be good for the community," he said.

Nexus Academy, run by Connections Education, would be a high school blending on-site instruction with an online curriculum that students would work on from home.

Mr. Steel said he objected to the school because he is concerned it is located too close to convenience stores and adult-oriented businesses downtown.

He pointed to regulations in Toledo's municipal code that prohibit convenience stores from opening close to schools.

"It's not an attempt to vilify convenience stores. I'm trying to follow the spirit and intent of the Toledo Municipal Code," he said. "I don't believe this proposed use is compatible with adjacent uses."

Paula Hicks-Hudson, who was absent for last week's vote but voted in favor this week, indicated the Toledo Plan Commission had recommended approval of the permit.

During a review of council's agenda for next week's meeting, some councilmen questioned a list of budget adjustments sought by the administration.

The budget changes include some new expenditures, such as $60,000 to fund a privately run youth activities program and nearly $38,000 to pay for a council aide.

It also appears to increase by about $1 million the amount of capital improvements money being diverted this year to the general fund, some councilmen said.

"That's not just budget correction, that's an entire new policy," Mr. Steel said. "We need a more robust discussion."

Finance Director Patrick McLean said most of what appears to be extra capital improvements money is actually funding left over from previous years that the city had planned to spend.

Council is scheduled to discuss the matter further during a finance committee hearing Tuesday at 2 p.m.

Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at cbarrett@theblade.com or 419-724-6272.



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