Buzzard Point in Southwest Washington, near the intersection of South Capitol Street and Potomac Ave. and across from Nationals Park home of the Washington Nationals, as seen on Friday, July 26, 2013, in Washington. Washington DC Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. United soccer team have reached a preliminary deal to build a stadium at Buzzard Point. Jason Levien, D.C. United co-owner, unveiled an ambitious $300 million plan that, if executed successfully, would result in the soccer franchise having a new, 20,000-seat stadium. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

THE DECISION to remove the city-owned Frank D. Reeves Center from a plan to build a major league soccer stadium in the District will mean a fairer and more transparent deal. That step by two D.C. Council committees should bring the new facility for D.C. United one step closer to becoming a reality.

The council is set to vote on the stadium plan Tuesday. Before giving its final approval, however, lawmakers need to carefully examine whether other changes could sweeten the deal for D.C. taxpayers without threatening the project. Above all, proposed tax breaks for the team, judged to be unnecessary by the city’s chief financial officer, should get another look.

Legislation approved last Tuesday by two council committees, one chaired by council member and Mayor-elect Muriel E. Bowser (D-Ward 4), would allow the District to spend up to $150 million to acquire the land and build the infrastructure needed for a facility at Buzzard Point. The tab for construction of the 20,000-seat stadium would be picked up by the team. In advancing the deal negotiated by the administration of Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), the council committees made certain modifications. The most significant was eliminating the scheme to obtain the land by swapping it for the Reeves Center, an aging municipal building in the booming U Street corridor. That deal had been faulted by an independent consultant.

Delinking Reeves from the plan will require the District to come up with the funds needed to purchase the land. The city’s borrowing ability is limited, so the stadium will have to compete with other priorities. That should prompt the council to take another look at the nearly $50 million in tax breaks promised to the team. The office of Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey S. DeWitt told the council the breaks on property and sales taxes are unnecessary since the team’s value has recently increased and it can secure stadium financing without the subsidies. Particular concern has been raised about providing $8.4 million in sales tax abatements; that is revenue that comes from stadium visitors and is just passed through the team.

Not surprisingly, D.C. United has argued it needs the tax abatements. But before blithely rubber-stamping the breaks, as has been the council’s tendency when it comes to providing this benefit to developers, council members should determine if there is a real need. As the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute pointed out in a recent blog post, “Every dollar in tax breaks for DC United is a dollar not going into the city’s coffers that could be used for education, public safety, health care, or other services.”