|Riddler proposes ticket tax for arena Jason Lee|
Of the Suburban Journals St. Charles Journal 12/04/2005
Admission prices to sporting events, concerts and other occasions at the Family Arena could be on the rise under a new ticket tax proposed Tuesday night.
During the St. Charles City Council's budget work session, council President Rory Riddler, Ward 1, said he thinks the city should add a gross receipts tax to tickets in order to help offset the city's annual $300,000 subsidy paid to the arena. The $35 million arena is located in the city but owned and managed by St. Charles County, which took over operational duties for nonsporting events from a private firm in 2001.
The City Council has refused to pay this year's subsidy, arguing that the county intentionally padded a list of 133 ticketed events by including high school graduations, religious gatherings and dance recitals that wouldn't attract the general public. Under a city-county agreement, the Family Arena each year must have at least 115 "separately ticketed public events" for the city to pay $300,000.
City officials have questioned whether 27 of the events qualified under the contract, such as a six-day Jehovah's Witnesses conference that was listed as six separate events.
"These are not things where the general public would be buying a ticket and going," Riddler said then. "They're not things that generate a great deal of revenue for either the facility or for the city as a whole."
Ortwerth, who has insisted the county hold up its end of the deal, filed a lawsuit Nov. 18 in St. Charles County Circuit Court to try to force the city to pay.
"We wouldn't have submitted the list to the city of St. Charles if we didn't think it was legitimate," Ortwerth said. "Those events are ticketed events."
In the lawsuit, the county contends city officials haven't justified their refusal to pay.
"The City has yet to provide any basis to the County, in writing or otherwise, for its failure to make its annual payment for 2005," the lawsuit states.
On the tax, Riddler didn't suggest a specific rate Tuesday but said 1 percent could be a possibility.
"On a $10 ticket the cost would be 10 cents for the consumer, most of whom come to events from outside the city," Riddler said.
The council voted Tuesday to ask the city administration to research the issue and determine whether voter approval would be needed.
Ortwerth said he would have to explore and discuss the issue before taking a position.
"The major question is whether the city has the legal authority to approve such a tax in the first place," Ortwerth said Wednesday.
He said the proposed tax doesn't alleviate the city's liability under the contract.
"That doesn't relieve them of the responsibility to pay us," he said.
Family Arena revenues from last year totaled $5.10 million compared to expenditures of $5.28 million, resulting in a $181,000 operating loss. The arena had an operating loss of $311,000 in 2003 and $605,000 in 2002, according to county records.