Entertainment costs could go up

LIMA – Ohio Gov. John Kasich touched on a number of topics during his State of the State address Tuesday night.

One of those topics was his proposed budget for Ohio.

Included in that budget is a plan to lower the state’s overall sales tax to 5 percent. It will cut the sales tax by a total of 20 percent during a three-year period and the small business tax by 50 percent during that same span.

That’s the good news.

However, Kasich also outlined a plan to expand what also is subject to the proposed 5-percent sales tax, reaching areas that were once exempt from such taxation.

Admission to entertainment events like concerts, cultural and sporting events, along with bowling alleys, film and tape rentals by theaters and even cable television services would be subject to the sales tax.

In terms of sporting events, that tax isn’t limited to major professional and collegiate athletics. It will hit home, being forced upon local high school and even middle school sporting events.

For some districts, gate receipts at sporting events are the lifeblood of the athletic department.

Recently, the Union Local School District was forced to explore the pay-to-participate option because of dwindling funding.

Others may have to follow suit if ticket sales take a substantial hit because of a sales tax.

“I don’t think this would be a good thing for interscholastic athletics,” said Kelly Rine, athletics director for St. Clairsville High School.

Rine noted that St. Clairsville has continued to try and keep its gate admission at a reasonable price, in spite of escalating costs of officials, transportation and other assorted costs.

“At the middle school level, our tickets have been $4 for adults and $2 for students for probably more than 5-6 years. We have not increased that at all,” Rine said.

Rine admits he’s only recently begun to think about the proposed impact but notes that the department will have to have a serious discussion about how to move forward.

Will ticket prices increase to reflect the tax being forced to be paid to the state or will prices stay the same, with the districts eating the costs of the tickets in order not to turn away any potential spectators who may be unwilling to pay additional costs for entrance?

That’s a decision each school district will have to wrestle with.

And they are not alone.

The sales tax could have a negative impact on events like county fairs.

“There has to be a decrease somewhere, either in my profits or customers,” said Eric Bates, president of Bates Brothers Amusements Co. Bates Brothers, based in Wintersville, supplies carnival rides to fairs and festivals, many in Eastern Ohio.

What individuals and families who annually attend multiple days at county fairs like the ones found in Belmont, Harrison, Monroe and Jefferson pay the increased cost per ticket, per family member, per day in order to continue to attend the fairs?

What happens to some of the county fair boards around the state who aren’t in the best financial position?

Hughes may be reached at mhughes@timesleaderonline.com