City: We'll pay off Cowboys Stadium bonds early


Arlington made $50.5 million in sales tax revenue during the 2011-12 fiscal year, The Dallas Morning News reported Thursday. That figure doesn't include proceeds of a half-cent of sales tax for Cowboys Stadium or a quarter-cent for street maintenance and repairs.

Mike Finley, the city's assistant director of fiscal policy, said the higher revenue has allowed Arlington -- located between Dallas and Fort Worth -- to cut three years from the end of its 30-year payment plan. If growth continues, the city could shorten that time frame even further, Finley said.

"We would think we're done somewhere around 2024, 2025 at our current growth (rate)," Finley told the newspaper. "Now, there's a long time between now and then, but that's what we believe."

Voters in 2004 approved the bonds, which enticed the Cowboys to move to Arlington from nearby Irving. The new stadium, built at a total cost of more than $1 billion, opened in 2009.

Critics have questioned whether Arlington should have offered tax incentives to the Cowboys -- or whether local governments should finance stadiums for privately-owned teams at all. Arlington also used $135 million in city bonds to pay for Rangers Ballpark next to the new football stadium.

"Yes, I had concerns about everything," said Robert Rivera, a city council member who supported bond elections for both the Cowboys and Rangers' stadiums. "But at the same time, I had faith and confidence in the direction of where we were going. I wasn't afraid."

Terry Witt, an accounting professor emeritus at the University of Texas at Arlington, pushed hard against city money going to both stadiums.

"Maybe I'm myopic, but I don't see how that stadium ever benefited me personally," Witt told the newspaper. "I don't see that I would be any worse off if that stadium wasn't here."

Witt hasn't changed his mind, but says paying the bonds early will help drive public support for similar future projects. Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck said future opportunities would likely come up, but didn't say what he had in mind.

"We've proven that public-private partnerships have worked every single time; at least they have with us," Cluck said.

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