Ticket-tax idea does another encore
This time, fee for events using city services would go to public safety, but concept has never won approval
By Brendan O'Shaughnessy
A City-County Council committee will consider a proposal this month to impose a fee on events that rely on the police and fire departments to help pay for wider public-safety needs.
The City-County Council's Rules and Public Policy Committee will consider a proposal to impose a special-events ticket fee to create a public safety fund at its Oct. 31 meeting.
The author of the idea, Republican Councilman Isaac Randolph, said the assignment of police forces to special events creates a void in neighborhood safety that the event fee should help fill. He wants to use the money to pay for police overtime, crime prevention programs for youths and to build a new jail.
Basing his calculations on events such as Pacers games and the Indy 500, Randolph estimated that a fee equal to 10 percent of the ticket price would bring in $4 million to $6 million a year. The fee would be capped at $3 per ticket. By using the new revenue to issue bonds, the fund could raise up to $46 million per year, he said.
Rozelle Boyd, chairman of the committee that will consider Randolph's proposal, said the idea of a ticket tax is not new. Similar proposals have come before the council only to be shot down, he said. Problems include making a distinction over what events to tax and how such fees affect existing contracts.
"We'll have to see what about this version makes it more palatable than (others) in the past," Boyd said.
Mayor Bart Peterson said the idea has also come up within his administration and in committees struggling with the city's crisis in public-safety funding. The city must find $400 million over the next two decades to pay for police and firefighter pensions.
"On the surface, it appears to be the right thing to do because special events are a cost to the city," Peterson said. "The problem is we're trying to add events, and this adds to the cost."
He said charging for a police presence at an event like Indiana Black Expo's Summer Celebration runs counter to the purpose of trying to support the events, which pump money into the local economy and help to raise the city's profile.
Peterson said a public-safety ticket fee is a worthwhile idea but would likely run into the same problems. He hadn't yet reviewed the specifics of Randolph's proposal.
The city and the Colts opposed a $3 ticket tax to help pay for a new football stadium last year. Instead, stadium construction is being funded with restaurant, hotel and car rental taxes.
Randolph said he thought it was important to reach consensus in the business community before a new fee is created.
"We don't want to rush into this," he said, "but we need to do something."
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I don't know about the rest of you, but this scares the hell out of me as a season ticket holder. The worst thing about it is...it seems like this is being exclusively bankrolled by Pacer Season Ticket Holders. The Colts get a pass due to their agreement with the city and Jim Irsay putting his foot down, but even if the Colts fans do have to "pony" up for this tax, the most it will cost a colt season ticket holder is $30 per year (10 games) no matter how expesnsive his seats are. For my 2 nose bleed seats up in the balcony, I'm looking at nearly a $200 increase per season. I know a lot of you roll pretty loaded down in the pockets, but my season tickets are a good majority of my disposable entertainment dollars. Having to pay an increase like this would seriously hurt the Pacers fan base more then any other team or sports facility in Indianapolis. There are a lot more fans like myself that give most of the entertainment dollars to PS&E and a $200 increase would cripple their chances to own season tickets.
I understand having to pay for the security at games, but as far as I know...the Pacers already pay for these services. Funding "youth programs" and "a new jail" seem to be the wrong avenue for a the fund generated by a ticket tax. I know these things have to be paid for, but sticking it "exclusively" on the backs of the Pacers season ticket holders is a bit much! You can only go to the Indy 500 once a year, you can only go to Colts games 10 to 12 times a year, but sticking Pacer fans anywhere between 46 and 62 games is BS!