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GCAC Holds Public Forum On Proposed Ticket Tax

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The Greater Columbus Arts Council has proposed a ticket fee for events and admission to venues throughout the city. 

As Mike Foley reports, the organization unveiled details of the plan last night in the first of three scheduled public forums. 

"We're at a tipping point. Next year, we will see a significant negative impact on our arts community if we don't solve this problem."  

Greater Columbus Arts Council Vice President of Marketing Jami Goldstein along with President and CEO Tom Katzenmeyer delivered the presentation with a sense of urgency to about 50 attendees in Franklinton. After reviewing more than a dozen possible funding mechanisms, they say a 7 percent ticket tax will help bridge an estimated $15 million gap in arts funding. 

"Without these funds, we're going to get squeezed," Katzenmeyer said. "It's possible there would be layoffs, shortened hours, cutbacks in educational and outreach programs, reduced contribution to the city's profile, loss of economic impact in jobs in the region, significant impact on the arena district neighborhood, and a city that is much less attractive and cannot compete against peer cities for business, tourism, and new residents."

The 7 percent fee would apply to tickets for arts, cultural, entertainment, and professional sporting events. College and K-12 athletic events are exempt per state law. The fee would generate about $14 million annually. Katzenmeyer says 70 percent would support critical programs, renovations, and improvements, and allow the GCAC to double the number of grants gives local organizations. He says the remaining 30 percent would fund essential renovations to Nationwide Arena. Columbus' nonprofit arts and culture sector generates more than $400 million in economic activity and supports almost 15,000 jobs. But Katzenmeyer says it's underfunded based on peer cities. More than 60 Ohio cities have a similar arts and entertainment fee. Most of those who spoke at this first public forum passionately offered changes to the plan. 

"I'm a local musician here in Columbus and an artist and promoter. These shows I'm involved with have tickets selling for about $5 to $8 per ticket. After I get through venue expenses, compensating the local bands, paying for my cost for fliers, I've got enough money to help the band get some gas. It's because of this that I'm asking for an exemption be made for venues for spaces under 1,000 capacity. This will allow spaces that foster up and coming artists to continue to operate. Artists and promoters aren't responsible for the anchor institutions in town. We're not responsible for making their budgets." 

"I'm with the Columbus Idea Foundry. The admission benefits language is very vague. We feel that it could adversely affect our ability to offer lectures and workshops to our members. It could end up taxing them twice. We would like more specific exemptions added into the language."

"When you were going through this research, when you were doing all these things and talking about having your community involved - which members of the community do you actually have involved? Do you actually have people who are down here on the ground floor who don't have that extra funding and can't get that extra funding from you because it doesn't support what they are doing exactly." 

   

Tim Katz, who formerly worked for GCAC, suggested the funding component has been long overdue, and that while the logistics need to be worked out, it's doable by working together. Longtime Wexner Center for the Arts Director Sherri Geldin agreed and offered the following suggestions.

"One threshold might be ticket price," Geldin said. "If your ticket price is under $10, let's not bother. Maybe that .70/ticket and the cost for smaller institutions to manage it maybe isn't worth it. Maybe it should be $5, but there are ways to run those numbers. Maybe it should be based on the size of an institutional budget, which would also alleviate a lot of the concerns expressed today by some of the smaller more grass roots institutions that are doing their best on nothing and helping to build the grass roots of arts appreciation in this community."   

Katzenmeyer expressed an openness to consider the suggestions, but maintained the admission fee concept will remain in some fashion.   

"We have waited a long time," Katzenmeyer said. "We have been asked over the years by civic leaders to wait for this school levy or wait for this zoo levy or wait for this or wait for that. We very dutifully did wait. It is now our turn to do this. We're not going to wait any longer. We're teeing this up. We're getting public input. That's why we have to move now. There is an urgency to getting this done."

Another public forum takes place today from noon until 2 at the Parsons Avenue library. The final input session will commence at the Martin de Porres Center Tuesday morning from 8:30 to 10:30. GCAC expects to introduce a final proposal to Columbus City Council at its next meeting September 17.

Mike Foley joined WCBE in February 2000, coming from WUFT in Gainesville, Florida. He earned Broadcasting and Journalism degrees from the University of Florida.
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