Columbus leaders have downsized a proposed ticket tax in the city to protect the arts from 7 to 5 percent, but critics argue the tax will hurt the city’s future events.
The Greater Columbus Arts Council originally proposed a ticket tax with a 7 percent surcharge, and with that fee, the Arts Council could raise $13 million annually. While 70 percent of the revenue would go toward art organizations, 30 percent would benefit the Nationwide Arena.
A coalition was formed to advocate for the ticket tax, and many urged citizens to see the effect the surcharge would have on low-income areas. Protect Art 4 Columbus co-chair Stefanie Coe said the charge could double arts education opportunities for children to more than 1.5 million each year, helping kids connect with one another through art, music, dance, and theatre. However, critics of the plan complained that their tax dollars would go toward the arena, whose tenant pays no rent.
On Tuesday, the Arts Council proposed the downsized tax, noting that none of the money from other venues would go toward Nationwide arena, and some ticket tax revenue from the arena would actually go toward supporting art facilities.
“At 5 percent, this fund could raise $3 million,” City Council president Shannon Hardin said, “with $2.4 million going to the arena, from the arena, and $600,000 going from the arena to other buildings.”
Columbus Greater Arts Council president Tom Katzenmeyer said the tax money raised at other venues will help the council distribute grants to local artists and raise $1 million toward youth art education, Radio WOSU reports.
“Many from the most economicall- challenged schools in our community,” Katzenmeyer said of the youth programs. “This is vital to education in Columbus. Studies show that low-income students who participate in the arts are five times less likely to drop out and twice as likely to graduate college.”
Ticket tax critic Michael Gonidakis, on the other hand, believes the tax would make it more difficult for event organizers to come to Columbus, noting that “if we have to compete against Indianapolis, Cleveland and other cities that have [the] same or similar ticket taxes, we’re going to lose events.” He said he is prepared for the tax to go to ballot.
Challengers must garner 8,000 signatures as a part of the charter’s referendum process.