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

Babo

As a business owner, I'd rather pay NO income tax and an 8% Admissions tax.

I own a business (not in Sandusky) that collects sales tax on sales. The community has a 1% income tax. So my employees and I pay 1% income tax and the business has additional costs to file local tax returns and comply with withholding requirements.

We are seriously considering moving the business just outside the community limits to pay no income tax, just as a new retail business (Dollar General)did in the community. I noticed that Dollar General made the same location decision (just outside a municipality's taxing authority) with every new location in a 20 mile radius of our area.

If Sandusky wants to attract wage earners and businesses instead of government dependent non tax payers then the way to go is to eliminate the Income tax and tax the tourists to support the community. For example where did NOMS and other medical companies build and take many high income jobs that used to be in Sandusky?

Yes, keep following Murray's lead (lawyers have notoriously poor business acumen but are great at feathering their clients and their nests at others expense)and continue to drive jobs and residents outside of Sandusky while his clients, his friends and he get preferential tax deals, grants, contracts and other advantages.

Babo

@ Nemesis

IMO, Murray's and Brady's conflicts not only prevent them from voting on an Admissions Tax but from any discussions on any tax increases whatsoever because they cannot consider all options. In other words, they are placing their financial interests ahead of the interests of the community.

WhatTheHeck

Voters who voted for these city commissioners need to get movin on a petition for this tax. Sounds like to me alot of them still are letting Kaman lead them. Ignor it long enough it will be too late to act, that was Kaman's way. Farrar is the only one that travels out of Sandusky and sees what other citys do. I think she is the only one for the last four years that has tried to get the tax money from CP, but never had any support from her other commissioners

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