Legislator: Interest on Advance Ticket Sales Could Fund Food Banks

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Copyright 2013 The Columbus Dispatch
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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)
September 24, 2013 Tuesday
NEWS; Pg. 1B
654 words
General Assembly; Plan links football, food banks;

Democratic state Rep. Tom Letson of Warren is an Ohio State football fan, and until this year he was a season-ticket holder, so he knows the drill.

To get season tickets at the 'Shoe, the money is due to the ticket office by late March, about five months before the first game.

That's too long for Letson, who proposed yesterday that the money any Ohio college -- not just Ohio State -- gets from tickets sold for an athletic event at least six weeks before the event be put into an interest-bearing account.

Letson is seeking co-sponsors of legislation that would require the interest from the schools' season-ticket sales to then be distributed to Ohio's food banks.

"This is a pool of money that otherwise might serve a dual purpose," Letson told The Dispatch. "The money is sitting around. I'd like it to sit in an interest-bearing account, and I'd like the interest to be put to good use."

Letson announced his bill at the Ohio Association of Foodbanks' appreciation luncheon at the Statehouse. Many of the people in the audience were associated with Ohio's 12 food banks.

Letson didn't mention Ohio State in his short speech, nor did he bring up the Buckeyes during his first interview with The Dispatch, citing instead much smaller programs at Bowling Green, Akron and even some private schools not known for athletics (such as Hiram College) that "receive state money."

But Ohio State was aware of Letson's bill of his objections to early ticket payments. The revenue the Buckeyes generate from season tickets is unmatched: $35.5 million from football and $5.5 million from men's basketball. Money for hoops tickets is due by the end of July.

"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," Gene Smith, Ohio State's athletic director, said in a statement to The Dispatch.

The school's athletic department says it is self-sufficient -- no tax dollars or tuition fees cover athletics costs -- and the approximately $5,000 a month generated in interest from football ticket sales goes into the department's budget.

Ohio State provided to The Dispatch payment due dates for tickets at some of the other large athletic programs in the country. Payments for football are due in April at Wisconsin and Oregon, May at Michigan, and March at Florida if you're paying in full.

The University of Toledo's deadline for season-ticket renewals was June 24 this year; at Akron, football renewals and men's soccer renewals were due June 1.

"This would be an unnecessary micromanagement of the university system in Ohio," said Bruce E. Johnson, president of the Inter-University Council of Ohio, which represents the state's 14 public universities.

"The vast majority of athletic programs run red ink already, and students end up paying additional fees. Putting this additional burden on them is not a good idea."

Letson said, "To think the bill is a shot at Ohio State is to misinterpret the bill.

"I am trying to find a way to feed people," he said, though he didn't know how much money his bill would generate for food banks.

The current state budget provides $14.5 million for food banks, and Gov. John Kasich has issued executive orders for at least $5 million more.

But the U.S. Department of Agriculture says 1 in 4 Ohio children, and 1 in 6 households, don't know where their next meal will come from at least part of the year.

"As we go through our lives, we talk about how tough things are," Kasich said in his speech at the luncheon. He didn't take questions from the media.

"We all whine a little bit. Maybe you don't but I do. That 25 percent of our kids don't know where they're going to get their next meal, that's completely unbelievable."

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September 24, 2013

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