The GOP tax bill Congress is voting on today - and now tomorrow as well - has created a headache for the city of Sacramento.
This comes as the city of Sacramento is working on turning the long-shuttered PG&E building along the Sacramento River, 400 Jibboom Street, into the new home of the Powerhouse Science Center, which is currently located at 3615 Auburn Boulevard. The new location is in the city's River District, which "is undergoing tremendous revitalization," the city says.
"This will be a modern, state-of-the-art science center that has partners like UC Davis, like Sac State, SMUD," Sacramento City Council member Steve Hansen said.
The project is set to cost $48.3 million, "of which $18.5 million is the cost to rehabilitate the 105-year-old structure," according to plans.
City leaders have been working on securing funding for years.
Rachel Hazlewood, is the senior project manager for the city's Office of Economic Development and Innovation. She said leaders were excited in the spring to identify a federal funding opportunity called Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABs). It would fund about $19.5 million of the project.
"QZABs are a federal tax-credit program available to educational institutions for the rehabilitation of school-related facilities," according to city council documents. "It results in a low interest rate on the borrowing, making the debt payments significantly lower than they would be through a conventional bond financing."
The Powerhouse Science Center has been working with the Sacramento County Office of Education to develop curriculum that will meet the requirements of the QZAB financing program, Hazlewood said. The proposed GOP tax bill, however, puts that funding stream in jeopardy.
If passed, the tax bill will eliminate the QZAB program on Jan. 1, 2018.
Hazlewood said she and city leaders learned of this in early November and immediately started scrambling to put together a plan that would allow them to close on financing by the end of the calendar year. Prior to that, she said, the city was on track to finish securing funding sometime in March.
"The decision was made to accelerate it and make sure we nab that opportunity," Hazlewood said.
"This project would not be happening without the federal program, so we're rushing as quickly as we can to get our financing done so that we can take advantage of this program before it's gone forever," Hansen said.
At the Dec. 19 Sacramento City Council meeting, members will discuss — and possibly vote on — the revised, expedited plan to close on financing by the end of December. They have 12 days.
"There's nothing like deadline to focus the mind, and this money is essentially as cheap as it comes. Zero interest. And if we had had more time, we would've actually been able to leverage more of it for the project," Hansen said. "We have to hit the close for Friday because of the holidays, and it looks like we're going to do it."
But plans for funding, plus dates for the construction and opening of the new Powerhouse Science Center location, have been in flux for years.
The city held an unveiling ceremony in Aug. 2011, where it was touted that "a $7 million check from Proposition 84’s Nature Education Facility Program will be used to begin construction on the $50 million project," which then was scheduled for completion in 2013.
This June 28, 2012 ABC10 article says, "The Center, which will cost an estimated $50 million, has nearly completed its pre-construction phase. The 61-year old Discovery Museum Science & Space Center on Auburn Boulevard is scheduled to move from its current location and become the Powerhouse Science Center...in 2014."
In a July 28, 2014 piece, the price tag was said to be $78 million, with an opening date of spring 2015.
And in September of this year, officials told ABC10 construction is set to begin in spring 2018, with an opening date sometime in 2020.
"This project really is a labor of love," Hansen said.
"It's very exciting," Hazlewood said, adding, "we'll see how things shake out. There's been a lot of communication, a lot of coordination and cooperation" from all of the players in this project."
Leaders are optimistic about the newest new plan, but say the tax bill has thrown a major wrench in their works.
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