The Jim Thorpe Borough Council met Monday, November 30 to discuss and enact three new taxes in order to close the city’s widening budget gap.
In attendance were all the officers of the Jim Thorpe Chamber of Commerce as well as several members and other residents.
Borough president John McGuire summarized the purpose of the proceedings by stating that the taxes were needed in order to deal with a difficult budget situation currently faced by Council. Those issues were detailed by Borough Manager Wes Johnson and Solicitor James Nanovic. They are hoping to raise $150,000 from the taxes that include an Amusement Tax, an Occupation Tax and a Local Services Tax.
The biggest tax in terms of revenue raised will be the Amusement Tax. It will consist of a 5% tax on the cost of entrance to various amusements in Jim Thorpe such as the Reading Northern’s Lehigh Gorge excursions, Mauch Chunk Opera House shows, rafting trips and others.
Jim Thorpe Chamber of Commerce President Bart Springer stated that while the chamber understands that budget issues have to be dealt with, that the arithmetic of an amusement tax suggests that it will be a considerable cost to those attractions that are affected. For example, if the Opera House attracts 10,000 people in 2011 at an average of $25 per ticket, the tax would amount to $12,500.
Former JTCC President Dan Hugos (also the main lessor of the Opera House) noted that while the taxes are inevitable and the problems are real, that the solution process might improve if it included the Chamber and skills of its members so that the process is less painful in the future, when future budget problems are identified. The fact that the Amusement Tax had only last week made its way onto the Chamber radar, and then was suddenly being enacted without time to study alternatives leaves a sour taste for all involved.
In addition to the Amusement tax the Occupational Tax will involve a one-time charge of $25 for each new employee hired in Jim Thorpe. The Local Services Tax of $10 will go in part to the cost of providing medical and rescue services to visitors in the Lehigh Gorge Park.
Hugos noted that while the tax is very painful in an economy like the current one, it should put to rest once and for all that one of Carbon County’s only industries (tourism) is a burden to residents. “We’re residents too and deal with the traffic like anyone else,” he noted. “We’re also paying property taxes and providing what anywhere else in the US are called good jobs,” alluding to all the various trades and professions are involved in the tourist trade in Jim Thorpe.
“Not only do the county commissioners collect revenue from a county lot full of visitors that our organization works to attract, but they then redistribute it to communities in the the form of projects and services. Now we are also helping to close a borough budget gap that all of us as residents helped to create,” he said. “The Jim Thorpe Chamber hopes that the County will help out as well with a share of the parking revenue that the Chamber is so instrumental in raising. That’s fair and reasonable.”