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Cedar Point helps budget crunch

Andy Ouriel • Jan 20, 2014 at 10:00 AM

GateKeeper’s   far from the tallest attraction at Cedar Point.

But the new ride surpassed one benchmark, delighting Sandusky officials almost as much as thrill seekers first hopping aboard the record-breaking roller coaster.

City officials collected $2.81 million in admissions tax throughout 2013, the most ever in Sandusky’s history.

The tax, a 3 percent fee tacked onto ticket sales at Sandusky-based entertainment venues, largely depends upon attendance at Cedar Point — the undisputed giant in the region’s entertainment industry.

From 1998 to 2012, only once did a yearly admissions tax top $2.65 million.

But finance workers and others lending their fiscal expertise to Sandusky’s budget predicted GateKeeper’s overwhelming buzz would juice up admissions taxes.    “We’re seeing the positive results of the tourist season right here,” Sandusky finance director Hank Solowiej said. “That’s really good, and it’s going to help us”

Rolling along

Financial data from past years shows Cedar Point’s new roller coasters do indeed benefit everyone, even city taxpayers fearful of such rides.

Since 1998, Sandusky’s admissions tax grew every year Cedar Point unveiled a new roller coaster compared to the year prior, according to a Register analysis of city data obtained through a public records request.

Among the examples, when:

• Millennium Force appeared in 2000, the admissions tax produced a 14 percent gain from 1999, when Camp Snoopy opened.

• Wicked Twister opened in 2002, the admissions tax grew 3 percent versus 2001, the year the now-defunct VertiGo opened.

• Top Thrill Dragster came in 2003, the admissions tax ballooned 5 percent from 2002.

• Maverick debuted in 2007, the admissions tax generated a 6 percent uptick compared to 2006, the opening year for Skyhawk.

• GateKeeper arrived in 2013, the city’s admission tax saw a 9 percent gain from 2012, when Dinosaurs Alive! and Luminosity opened.

“Every time Cedar Point debuts a roller coaster, there’s a bump in the admissions tax,” said Allen Nickles, Sandusky finance committee chairman.

Next year, Cedar Fair executives plan to introduce two new family-friendly roller coasters along with refurbishing Jr. Gemini.

Sandusky officials want a similar gain in admissions tax with these new and improved rides.

“Our budget goes as Cedar Fair goes,” Nickles said. “I hope the admissions tax is higher next year”

Other taxes

The city’s other two main income sources also produced robust results this past year:

• Income taxes totaled $6.72 million in 2013, a 3 percent increase from 2012.

A 1 percent income tax is tacked onto people working within city boundaries. It’s the largest income source for Sandusky’s annual budget.

• Lodging taxes equaled $1.18 million in 2013, an 11 percent increase from 2012.

City officials place a 3 percent tax on people staying at area hotels and motels.

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