Renewal for The Dow Would Cut the Existing Tax by Half

Posted In: Politics, Local, News, Local,   From Issue 713   By: Robert E Martin

21st October, 2010     0

Now that a $14 million overhaul of TheDow Event Center is in place, supporters say they can continue operations with half of the original countywide property tax rate.

The ballot proposal on Nov. 2 is for 0.225 mill, a 10-year renewal for half of the original 0.45 mill that county voters passed after the turn of the millennium to save the former Saginaw Civic Center.

“The County of Saginaw has never in its history asked the voters to cut a tax in half,” says County Controller Marc McGill, framing the pitch the supporters are making.

The half-amount summary is not newfangled. Voters were told back in 2001 that a levy was needed both for building repairs and for maintenance, and that the tax no doubt would be reduced after the first 10 years.

County ownership took place after the original owner, Saginaw City Hall, no longer could afford to pay an operating subsidy that has reached nearly $800,000. Basic repairs also had been neglected at the facility, built in 1971 and 1972.

Proponents of the original tax asserted that the Civic Center’s budget would be streamlined by professionals from Philadelphia-based SMG Management. But the tax subsidy, now described as an “operations gap,” remains at $700,000 under SMG, even with Dow Chemical Co. sponsorship of $250,000 for renaming of TheDow Event Center.

McGill notes that Saginaw County is not unique because civic centers in other communities also require tax support.

            He says seven factors have prevented TheDow from moving closer to self-sufficiency:
            (1) Soaring Eagle Casino in Mt. Pleasant buys out many shows that otherwise would have come to Saginaw.
            (2) Mandated minimum wage increases have taken effect for more than 200 part-time employees.
            (3) Utility costs have doubled during the past decade, reaching a peak of $500,000 per year.
            (4) The local economy has suffered, with severe job losses.
            (5) The entertainment industry has slumped, especially during the past three years, although there are signs of a slight comeback next year with more acts booking at TheDow.
            (6) Revenue from a hotel and motel tax, which reached $400,000 per annum, expires in 2012.
            (7) Cost will continue for repair and maintenance of the adjacent parking ramp.

Outlook from a Saginaw Transplant
J.J. Boehm graduated from Indiana’s Valparaiso University in pursuit of a broadcast media career and he found work with WSGW, AM 790 in 1996.

Boehm in 2003 became Saginaw Valley State University’s director of media relations. He recently married Jenn Spence, an SVSU alum from Saginaw Township.

Fourteen years ago, Boehm would not have imagined himself planting roots in Saginaw, much less leading a grassroots campaign for the local civic center.

But that’s what happened. He helped persuade his 27 Leadership Saginaw classmates to adopt The Dow Event Center millage proposal as their class project.

“We’re gearing up for the homestretch now, going door to door, making phone calls, presenting to civic groups,” he says.

Boehm tells residents he’s a newlywed, and that, “I want to live in a place with amenities  that my family and future children can enjoy. If we want to see Disney On Ice or the circus, we don’t want to have to drive to Detroit.

“In terms of attracting residents and businesses, this proposal is critical for the future of Saginaw and  Saginaw County’s.”

He says he feels optimistic because of overwhelming voter support in August for similar small renewals for county parks and the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History.

“People are inquisitive and they want to make sure they understand what’s happening with their votes,” Boehm says. “They are surprised to learn how small the rate is, and that it’s being cut in half. Residents of Saginaw County understand that we need to keep those amenities that have been successful for our quality of life.”


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