Voters Deep Six Ticket Tax Initiative
by Connie Sartini,
At the second session of the 2019 Spring Town Meeting, voters defeated a proposal to petition the State Legislature to authorize the Town of Groton to collect a tax on tickets sold for live, paid performances in venues that seat 200 or more attendees.
State Representative Sheila Harrington, speaking as an opponent of the proposal, told voters that she spoke with the leadership in the Legislature regarding the petition and received negative comments. One official said that this was tried at one point in the City of Lowell, adding that it did not pass, and “all attempts like this died on arrival.” She noted that the ground rule prevails, “Don’t tax non-profits.”
Harrington stated that this effort was “targeted to Indian Hill Music mainly, with some outliers on occasion.” She noted that “Indian Hill paid the Town of Groton half a million dollars in permitting fees” adding that some fell into a construction control account and that there were inspectors and architects on site.
“It is wrong, ill-advised and I would not agree to it,” she said. Harrington also pointed out that “one thing is common to all non-profits and that is they are trying to do something good,” for the culture and education of a community.
Speaking for the Finance Committee, Bud Robertson advised voters the FinCom felt that there was not enough information available to make an informed decision. “Who else is affected,” he asked, adding, “We felt it was way too early if ever. Right now is not prime time in our view.”
Select Board member Alison Manugian stressed that this, “was not intended to target Indian Hill Music” and likened it to similar taxes such as a room tax and a meals tax. She stated, “The State doesn’t meet their revenue commitments but they want to restrict us.”
Resident Jeff Wallens pointed out that he has “no illusions as to whether it is approved by the Legislature” but wants to call this to their attention. He added that there are two private schools that pay no taxes, and that “one of these has value and an endowment in the hundreds of millions of dollars. I think it is appropriate to have the legislature pay attention to this.”
Select Board member Becky Pine stated that the “genesis of this was aimed at Indian Hill Music.” It is similar to a private school, but will have a major impact and boost the town’s fame and stature.” She added that there will be an impact on services, both police and fire. She suggested exploring ways for Indian Hill Music to provide some revenues for the town. Pine stressed that both private schools have PILOTS (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) with the town. “We have not had this discussion with Indian Hill Music,” noting the “lingering feelings on how the building permit with Indian Hill Music was handled.”
Resident Greg Sheldon pointed out that “in the last couple of years, there has been a broken relationship with Indian Hill Music. There are ways to approach this in a different fashion. It’s broken and we need to start fresh with a fresh approach.”
Lisa Fiorentino, Chief Executive Officer of Indian Hill Music told voters how pleased Indian Hill Music is to be in Groton and stated that all police details will be paid for by Indian Hill Music and that they did not ask the town to pay this. Fiorentino said that the Indian Hill Music project is about three and a half years from completion, but “when it’s done and we move in, we will be happy to talk about a PILOT.”