Mar 19, 2014

Do Sandusky commissioners favor tax hike? (Updated 6:40 p.m.)

It seems as if city commissioners would raise the admissions tax, then they could solve their financial woes. Have or are they considering increasing the 3 percent rate? Jim from West Adams Street
6:40 p.m. — Story updated and includes responses from all seven commissioners.
 
12 p.m. — Original story:
 
Let's offer some background before providing answers from commissioners:
 
The tax: The admissions tax, which is 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.
 
The amount: City officials collected about $2.81 million in admissions tax in 2013, the most in recent times. Cedar Point's new roller coaster, GateKeeper, surely propelled this amount.
 
The proposed raise: In Jim's questions, he referenced a past Register story, indicating an 8 percent admissions tax rate would've generated about $7.5 million — virtually solving all of Sandusky's budget problems, underscored by commissioners eliminating four full-time firefighter positions.
 
If commissioners were to raise a tax, many residents favor hiking the admissions fee — as opposed to the 1 percent income tax or upping property taxes —  since it largely targets tourists.
 
The decision: For the past few weeks, commissioners have discussed whether or not residents would support a tax increase of some kind.
 
Sandusky ex officio mayor Dennis Murray Jr. started the conversation by organizing town hall-style meeting, informing people about Sandusky's budget challenges and seeking input for how to improve the city's financial standing.
 
But Murray, who's firm Murray & Murray represents Cedar Fair, has recused himself from answering the question.
 
So the Register asked every other commissioner via email about whether they favor increasing the admissions tax or not.
 
Any tax increase would likely have to be approved by a majority of voters.
 
Here are their responses:
 
• Jeff Smith: I would much rather work with Cedar Point as a corporate citizen than force a tax on (its) customers. I feel it is much more important for Sandusky to begin an aggressive economic development campaign focusing on our strengths. We need to build partnerships with local businesses focusing on creating more jobs within the city limits 
 
• Naomi Twine: I am not in favor of supporting an increase in the admissions tax. I believe that if we are going to move this city forward, we, the commissioners, should take the lead and collaborate with city staff, citizens and business stakeholders. If this commission, after exercising responsible, measured and strategic assessment of where we are, what we need to do in order to get to where we want to go, make the appropriate adjustments when and where needed, and if all parties involved believe an admissions tax increase is something that they would be willing to support, I would consider it. 
 
• Wes Poole: :The Dog and (its Reflection)", An Aesop's Fable: It happened that a Dog had got a piece of meat and was carrying it home in his mouth to eat it in peace. Now on his way home he had to cross a plank lying across a running brook. As he crossed, he looked down and saw his own shadow reflected in the water beneath. Thinking it was another dog with another piece of meat, he made up his mind to have that also. So he made a snap at the shadow in the water, but as he opened his mouth the piece of meat fell out, dropped into the water and was never seen more.
 
• Scott Schell: We can not hope to meet these challenges by cuts to staff and services alone. Part of that game plan has to be a strategy to increase revenues. We will need to look at every aspect of our current revenue stream and assess what can be improved or revised to help the city provide the necessary services to our citizens. The admissions tax is just one piece of this equation.  I would be in favor of beginning the dialogue with our community partners who contribute annually to the admissions tax. Share with them the state of the city today and our analysis of where we are headed in the next two years. Investigate how the current levels of tax impact their business today and how any potential increase might impact their operations in the future.
 
• Dick Brady: The admission tax issue creates a potential conflict of interest for myself. I own Brady Sign Company and Brady Electric Inc. Over the last 34 years, both of these companies have been a vendor to the largest contributor to the admission tax collected by Sandusky, Cedar Fair. Due to this potential conflict of interest I will be required to refrain from discussing or voting on the admissions tax issue. 

• Julie Farrar: Yes, I am in favor of raising the admissions tax. The admission tax has been the same amount since its inception. Cedar Point and the city are in this together in my opinion. I would use an admission tax increase for streets and other infrastructure improvements and also ask the citizens to get behind a safety levy to fund our police and fire departments.

The Mailbag is a daily feature on sanduskyregister.com. Each weekday at noon, we will post one question from a reader and answer it. To ask a question, send a letter to The Mailbag at 314 W. Market St., or email mailbag@sanduskyregister.com. Please include your first name and a location in the email, e.g. “John from Decatur Street."

Comments

Bogtrotter

The Register did a nice job of setting forth the commissioners' uniform opposition to an increase in the admissions tax (unless Cedar Fair demands it).

Clearly, an increase in the admissions tax is only going to happen if Sandusky residents gather the necessary signatures to get an increase in the admissions tax placed on the ballot. Does anyone have any interest in meeting on a Saturday morning to move forward with such an effort?

Personally, I find it inexplicable that the admissions tax rate is less than half of the sales tax rate.

Anyone interested in meeting at Mr. Smith's on Saturday, April 5, at 11 am?

reader

Time to come to grips with reality. Sandusky's economy has changed from manufacturing to tourism.

And it's time to realize we are not going to attract new development or residents by shutting down fire stations or raising income or real estate taxes.

The admission tax is not paid by Cedar Point, but by the tourists paying to enter the park.

The admission tax rate is lower than other tourist destination localities charge.

Raise the admission tax. Restore the cut fire department positions and leave the west end station open.

Nemesis

Why does it have to be an all or nothing proposition of either the current 3 percent or maxing out at 8 percent.

A increase from 3 to 4.06 percent would raise an additional $1 million in revenue while increasing CP ticket prices by only about a dollar. That would solve the immediate budget problem.

An increase to 8 percent would raise ticket prices by the cost of admission to the dinosaur exhibit (which presumably is also subject to the tax) which offers customers an opportunity to claw back that increase by not buying that secondary (also taxed) ticket. Does the city really need that hard lesson in the inevitability of the Laffer curve?

Next, we can have a serious discussion about city government pulling back and letting people be a little more responsible for themselves.

What is the city's recreation budget for instance, and when did it become government's responsibility to entertain us?

Why should tourists pay for law enforcement services when most of the law breaking is done by locals, and a sub-population of locals who city government bends over backward to please at that?

DEATHnTAXES

Agree

Bogtrotter

"

Nemesis

Law enforcement is THE basic purpose of government. Centuries of broad consensus support general societal benefits such as roads and fire departments. Entertainment, on the other hand, is a personal responsibility, and a non-essential one at that.
We have food stamps to relieve people of responsibility for feeding themselves.
We have public housing to relieve them of sheltering themselves.
When we have government forcibly tax to relieve people of responsibility for amusing themselves, it's time to just admit we're all slaves owned by the government.

The real irony is that, to pay for the amusement of some people, you want to tax the amusement of others, paid for by the fruit of their own labors, into unaffordability.

Bogtrotter

T

sugar

And Rome fell. It is NOT the responsibility of government to take money from anyone to entertain, feed, house, treat medically, any other citizen for any reason. Now living in a civil society we do offer assistance to those less fortunate, feeble or ill. But we are broke party is over.

Bogtrotter

?

mamaoftwo

Tourists are not just using our police force. They are also driving on our streets, using our water and sewer, using our other emergency services, etc. They are costing city employees' work hours when they set up the summer/winter traffic patterns. All of this costs the city money.

I would not want to see the tax increase applied to our nonprofits that aren't really making a profit (for example, the Carousel Museum), and don't have a large attendance, especially of tourists, because that could really hurt them.

And yes, we wouldn't want it any other way, because we all know that Cedar Point is critical to our local economy. However, having tourists pay for the costs associated with their presence in town is fair and reasonable.

DGMutley

Yes!

reader

Sounds to me like the commissioners had better hurry if they're going to lead on this issue or the matter will be taken out of their hands.

Or is that their strategy?

doppleganger

So basically the answer to the writer's question is NO, they do not plan to raise the admissions tax. They all need to be voted out.

Brick Hamland

I am ok with the tax at 3%. If you raise the tax Cedar Point will most likely raise the price of admission, cost of merhcandise, cost of food etc. When the price of admission rises then it is possible that less people will visit the park. Less people going to the park, less people coming to the area to spend money at other places, ie. hotels, dining, the Mall, etc. I would look into other ways to generate income for the city. Increase fines for repeat offenders in court and collecting those fines I bet would make a sizable difference.

MiddleRight

Cedar Point charges $49.99 for a 1 day ticket. They can get another $60 for an express pass. Parking is $10, or for an extra $20, you can park near the entrance. An increase from 3% to 4% on the entire package of $130 would be $1.30. On the $50 daily ticket, it's $.50. You think that's going to cost them attendance?

Bogtrotter

?

sugar

Repeat offenders of what???? Drug dealing??? Oh yes because criminals generally have the money to pay fines. Idiotic.

T. A. Schwanger

###

Perhaps the Sandusky Register can do an article on Commissioner Smith's plan for economic development besides selling City Hall and the Sandusky Bay Pavilion.

What are his ideas for APEX, Keller, Sandusky Cabinets, Wysteria Farms, etc??

He briefly discusses economic development at each Commission meeting but no details.

aaa_zzz

That appears to be his "canned" answer to everything. If he donated a dollar to the city every time he said this, then the city would not be in financial trouble.

Bogtrotter

Does anyone want to meet and try to move forward with a petition drive, or are we simply going to roll over?

donutsh0pguy

count me in.

"Save City Services Tax the Tourist"

Bogtrotter

Mr. Smith's. April 5. 11 am.

Tribester

Let's say a one day ticket costs $45, 3% is $1.35, 8% is $3.60. The difference is $2.25. The one day ticket now costs $47.25. I'm sure everyone will stay home now and Cedar Point will become a ghost town and shut down because of a TWO DOLLAR surcharge on the admission ticket. Get a grip people!

Bogtrotter

?

Nemesis

But you leftists think an extra dollar of taxes on a pack of cigarettes will be sufficient to break someone's addiction.

On the one hand you claim raising taxes won't change people's behavior, and then on the other you try and use tax increases to do exactly that.

Tribester

The problem is Murray and Brady are slaves to their corporate overlords at Cedar Fair due to their business deals they have with CP! Put it on the ballot, and it will pass EASY!

Bogtrotter

To get it on the ballot, we will need petitions signed by a number of voters equal to 10% of the number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. Does anyone want to participate in that effort? The City Commission is NOT going to work to put an increase in the admissions tax on the ballot.

sugar

April 5, 11 AM, Smiths coffeehouse.

Julie R.

I don't believe for one second that people will stop visiting Cedar Point if they raise the prices a few bucks. Gas goes up sky-high every summer but people don't stop taking their yearly vacations because of it and neither will people stop going to Cedar Point.

Also, that's a bunch of crap what somebody asked "why should the tourists pay for law enforcement services when most of the law breaking is done by locals." That makes it sound like everybody in the city of Sandusky are dirt-bags & law breakers when we all know the majority of the good people in Sandusky are just like everybody else --- average, law-abiding citizens.

Nemesis

First year Bike Week included the big block party downtown, everyone was afraid it would erupt in violence. The last night of the party, it rapped up at 1:00am, and everyone peacefully returned to their hotels. Two hours later, Hancock street erupted in a remake of the OK Corral.

Was Andrew Dunn shot by a tourist, or a local? How many of the many shootings in Sandusky in recent years have been committed by tourists? ZERO. How many car thefts? Muggings? Robberies? Burglaries? Rapes? Seeing a pattern yet?

You're probably right that the majority of Sandusky residents ARE law abiding citizens, but there's a sizable minority that provides the bulk of the need for law enforcement. Otherwise, why isn't the police blotter blank during the winter?

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