Some nonprofit groups would be exempt from proposed ticket tax

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Fundraising events organized by nonprofit groups not related to arts, including the All American Quarter Horse Congress and the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, would be exempt from a proposed ticket tax that’s scheduled for a final vote by the Columbus City Council Monday.

The change was among amendments made in advance of the session — the last city council meeting of the year — with potential additional amendments that could be offered prior to passage.

There are two ticket tax ordinances on the agenda for council consideration.

One would implement a 5 percent admissions tax on performances and athletics events costing more than $10 per ticket at venues with more than 400 seats, not including Nationwide Arena. The tax would generate an estimated $6 million annually for local arts groups through the Greater Columbus Arts Council.

The other ordinance, a 5 percent fee on tickets for Nationwide Arena events, would generate about $3 million, with $2.4 million going to arena improvements and $600,000 for grants to support “other cultural arts facilities, public art, sports venues, and performance arts spaces,” according to documents.

The council reduced the rate to 5 percent from the 7 percent initially proposed when the ticket tax was announced months ago. Members have been making other tweaks to the language with hopes of gaining support.

Tickets for events that support nonprofit groups that do not receive operating or program funding from the arts council would be exempt, said Michael Brown, chief of staff for city council President Shannon Hardin. That would include the chamber and Experience Columbus annual meetings or galas and All American Quarter Horse events that fund scholarships.

Hardin told The Dispatch Friday morning that he did not expect changes to the 5 percent ticket tax number. But further amendments could be offered before a final vote, he said.

While there likely will be enough support for passage, it doesn’t appear that the final votes will be unanimous.

“It’s fair to say that council members continue to have questions and have been scrutinizing what’s been presented and what changes are being presented to make sure we’re providing what’s going to be best (for residents and organizations) in the city of Columbus,” said Councilman Michael Stinziano.

The ticket taxes would not take effect until July, though one opponent said a planned referendum would block them from ever being implemented.

“It’s unconscionable what they’re doing here,” said Mike Gonidakis, representing Advocates for Responsible Taxation. “Who pays? The citizens and small business owners. This is ridiculous.”

Proponents say it’s a fair way to generate revenue to support the arts because the fee would be paid by users.

Opponents would have about a month after the ordinances are certified to collect about 8,900 signatures to either force council to repeal the ordinances or place them on the ballot for a final determination by voters.

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