No decision by Cuyahoga County Council on what to do with casino tax revenue

CLEVELAND - What generates more debate: How to cut money from a county budget, or how to spend new found cash? In Cuyahoga County, it's close.

County council Tuesday took up the issue again of what to do with its share of the tax money that will be generated by the state's new casino industry, an amount expected to be around $2 million this year and eventually as much as $11 million.

County Executive Ed FitzGerald wants the money to be used solely to promote economic development in Cleveland's Downtown District, generally defined as the area bordered by Lake Erie south to the Innerbelt Bridge and from W. 25th Street to E. 25th Street.

Many council members said all or part of the money should go towards other things, like helping the inner ring suburbs that are about to be hit lower property appraisals.

"To stand back and believe in two years, if we make the core strong, somehow the inner rings are going to survive, I think is a myth," said Councilwoman Sunny Simon.

Councilman Dale Miller proposed 60 percent go to development in Downtown Cleveland, 20 percent toward development in the county and 20 percent toward a scholarship fund.

"I think there should be a human capital development component as well as a physical development component," said Miller.

Councilman Dave Greenspan encouraged council to hold off on making a decision on where to spend the money in an effort to determine what the impact of gambling will be on county services.

Parma's Chuck Germana expressed concern over having the county should offer up its share of casino money to develop Cleveland's core without a similar commitment from Cleveland itself.

"If Cleveland isn't a part of this, I can't be part of this," he said.

Many council members spoke of letting the money build in a fund so that it could have a substantial impact when it is eventually spent down the road. FitzGerald though argued against that.

"There are a number of projects in the works that are looking for financing and if you told them well we might be able to help you in two years, the moment might pass and right now we have a lot of momentum and i think we need to keep it going," he said.

Council will debate the matter once again on July 24 with the hope of deciding what to do with the money by early September. FitzGerald urged them not to wait to long whatever they decide.

"I don't expect to get 100 percent of what I'm suggesting by the way, I'm ok with that but I'd almost rather get a quick decision then somebody tell me you're going to get everything you want if you wait a year."

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