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Cellucci backs transferring Fenway taxes to city coffers

Designated district could generate $3M for Boston

By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 7/22/2000

overnor Paul Cellucci gave the Red Sox a boost yesterday by agreeing to an additional funding source for the team's $627 million ballpark project. Reaffirming his support for the new Fenway Park, the governor endorsed a plan that would allow the city to retain some of the millions of dollars in sales and meals taxes the state collects in Boston.

The city could use the funds to help recover its cost of acquiring and cleaning up the land for the new ballpark. Since the taxes already exist, the transfer would not violate Cellucci's strong "no new taxes" pledge.

"It's existing taxes dedicated to this project, so the answer is yes," Cellucci said when asked about the proposed transfer yesterday.

According to financing experts who have studied the idea, a district that includes taxes generated only by new businesses in the Kenmore/Fenway area could raise $3 million or more a year for the city. The city needs $11 million a year to recover its investment in the proposed ballpark site, but several other revenue options are under review.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham have also signaled their support for a special ballpark financing district.

It's unclear, however, where House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran stands on the transfer of state sales and meals taxes to the city. Finneran, who has carefully reserved judgment on ballpark financing plans offered by Cellucci and Menino this week, has been unavailable for comment on the new Fenway Park for several days.

House members suggested yesterday that the speaker is studying the various financing options and will make his position clear next week. Although Finneran has sought advice from members and business leaders, no one would predict yesterday what his final position would be.

The idea of a special district is modeled after a similar district that was created around the new convention center. That district, which encompasses about 1,300 acres, was established to help repay the city for buying the South Boston site. It allows Boston, rather than the state, to obtain all of the sales, beverage, and meals taxes raised around the new waterfront convention center.

Last year, the new convention center district generated roughly $2 million for the city. Because Fenway is closer to the city's core, development in the area is expected to boom if the team builds a new ballpark. The state's promised $100 million in infrastructure aid for the project is also expected to help promote redevelopment in the area, including the creation of restaurants, bars, and retail shops.

The size of such a district remains a questions. "A district in the Fenway/Kenmore area is probably supportable," said Samuel Tyler of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau. "But if it extends too far beyond the proximity of the ballpark project, I think that would be problematic."

The sales and meals taxes would be in addition to the payback plans Cellucci included in a ballpark financing proposal he unveiled on Thursday. It called for the city to recoup its investment through a game-day-only parking surcharge, revenues generated by a proposed city-owned garage, and a slight hike in the hotel tax.

Earlier in the week, Menino proposed a different ballpark financing plan that called for a citywide parking surcharge. Cellucci vowed to veto the measure, which he equated with a tax on commuters. Yesterday the governor suggested the Red Sox problem is with Finneran and Birmingham, neither of whom have publicly commented on either the mayor's plan or Cellucci's proposal.

"The silence from the Legislature is a bit deafening at this point," Cellucci said. "There are two plans out there . . . and there are other options that can be explored. We need to hear from the legislative leaders."

With only a week left before lawmakers adjourn, critics have argued there is not sufficient time to take up a ballpark bill this year. Red Sox chief John Harrington is scheduled to be in Cooperstown this weekend for Carlton Fisk's induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, team officials stressed that Harrington would be willing to quickly return if state or city leaders want to meet with him on the new ballpark.

This story ran on page C01 of the Boston Globe on 7/22/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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