County May Contest Tax-Exempt Status of Soccer Stadium
It’s the tax, man
County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to "preserve the county's right to challenge the tax-exempt status" of the soccer stadium to be built by Precourt Sports Ventures on a tract of city-owned land at McKalla Place. Whether PSV would pay property taxes for use of the site has been a contentious issue in the political battle to bring Major League Soccer to Austin, which took another step forward after a Council vote last week.
Under the current term sheet, the city would retain ownership of the land and stadium, potentially exempting PSV from paying property taxes, so long as the stadium serves a "public purpose." City officials involved in negotiating the deal said it was unlikely that the tax exempt status of the land or stadium would be contested, because they could not find any cases in which a professional sports team in Texas paid taxes for use of public land. However, they noted that it would be the Travis Central Appraisal District that would make the call on any tax exemption.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Gerald Daugherty expressed frustration that county officials were left out of the soccer conversation. He acknowledged that the city owned the land, and striking a deal with PSV was its decision, but said that doing so without consideration for surrounding taxing jurisdictions was "pretty inconsiderate."
It is unclear what action County Attorney David Escamilla may be able to take to secure a tax on the McKalla land, or how it would impact any potential deal between the city and PSV. But County Judge Sarah Eckhardt made clear why the court was taking the vote: "We do have a fiduciary responsibility to assure that the burden of taxes is falling equitably among Travis County residents, whether they are individuals or corporations."