Editorial: Funding Food Banks with Ticket Interest Money Flawed

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Copyright 2013 The Columbus Dispatch
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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)
September 30, 2013 Monday
525 words
Editorial; Intention is good but plan is flawed;

Buckeye fans are a big-hearted lot, and surely support the idea of donating to Ohio's food banks that supply the needy.

But a proposal that would require state universities to put advance money from sales of sports tickets into interest-bearing accounts and give the proceeds to food banks is not a sound or workable idea.

The proposed legislation from state Rep. Tom Letson, D-Warren, is well-intentioned; few would argue with its goal of giving more assistance to food banks. The way Letson proposes to do that, though, is not well thought out, and would take money away from self-sustaining athletic programs, which don't receive public money and benefit other causes within the university.

Speaking before an Ohio Association of Foodbanks luncheon recently, Letson laid out a plan that would require that the money any Ohio college takes in from advance season-ticket sales to sporting events be put into an interest-bearing account, with the interest going to Ohio food banks.

"The money is sitting around ... I'd like the interest to be put to good use," Letson told the audience, many of whom were associated with the 12 food banks around the state.

Ohio State University is easily the biggest school that would be affected by this proposed law: Season tickets to OSU football generate $35.5 million, and basketball pulls in $5.5 million. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith provided an illustration of why the plan is not a wise approach.

"All monies generated, including the approximate figure of $25,000 for interest earned on annual football season tickets sales, help our department remain self-sufficient while supporting the academic mission of the university, like the $9 million athletics department investment in the university library," said Smith in a statement to The Dispatch. No tax dollars or tuition fees go into the athletics department, which is self-sustaining; the approximately $5,000 a month generated in interest from football ticket sales goes into the department's budget.

Ohio State also pointed out that its late-March due date for buyers to pay for season tickets is not out of line with other major schools around the country.

Representatives for other schools also said the plan is not sound.

"The vast majority of athletic programs run red ink already, and students end up paying additional fees," said Bruce E. Johnson, president of the Inter-University Council of Ohio, which represents the state's 14 public universities. "Putting this additional burden on them is not a good idea," Johnson said, saying the plan would be "an unnecessary micromanagement of the university system in Ohio."

The current state budget provides $14.5 million for Ohio's food banks, and Gov. John Kasich has issued executive orders to provide at least $5 million more, a 33 percent increase, in light of the ongoing need.

Letson and Kasich both have the right goal, even if Letson's proposal is not the best approach.

Those wishing to aid the cause should visit www.ohiofoodbanks.org for more information or to make a donation online. Those wishing to make a donation specifically for central Ohio can visit www.midohiofoodbank.org.

September 30, 2013

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