The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday September 29th

Arts advocates worry sales tax will slow sales

To many, the term "House Bill 998" doesn’t ring any bells.

But to ArtsCenter executive director Art Menius, it could mean the difference between hosting a theater group at the nonprofit venue or remaining eventless for the night.

The bill, passed by the 2013 North Carolina state legislature, requires that a 6.75 percent sales tax be paid on all admission fees to entertainment and live events, a monetary sum that will likely drive away community members.

“By 2015, with all events will be (subject to the new tax), and with costs being more than 1/16th as much previously, we fear with good reason that people will come to fewer events, which will drive down our earned revenue and make it impossible to present as many theater concert presentations as we’ve done in the past,” Menius said.

The bill will be implemented beginning in the 2014-2015 fiscal year, starting July 1.

However, certain nonprofits that sell tickets in advance have already felt the effects of the bill.

PlayMakers Repertory Company has already sold a number of 2014-2015 season tickets that were taxed by the bill. Managing Director Hannah Grannemann said fortunately, the ticket sales were not affected but that can most likely be attributed to the dedication of the crowd itself.

“It has not, so far, caused a decrease in sales, but all we have on sale are our subscriptions, which are our most devoted,” she said.

“When single ticket sales go on sale, we will be worried.”

On May 14, the General Assembly is scheduled to convene, and will likely make more changes to the budget. Some proposed changes include creating more red-tape restrictions on the nonprofits and further tax reform.

Both organizations said they work with Arts North Carolina, an advocacy group fighting for arts nonprofits across the state.

The group sponsors “Arts Day,” which will take place in Raleigh May 20 and 21.

“Arts Day is where we have everyone come from all over the state and the first day is a conference, the second day they have an opportunity to meet with their legislators,” said Christine Olson, administrator for Arts North Carolina.

“People should have a relationship with the legislature. If the legislators know that it’s important to the people then it becomes an important issue for them as well.”

All nonprofit members say, above everything, the lack of funding for arts nonprofits is not only detrimental to the respective communities, but also to North Carolina as a whole.

“The ArtsCenter gets between the state arts council and the Orange County and Carrboro chamber less than $100,000 in government funding, but our activities support the equivalent of 111 full time jobs in the community and 328,000 in state and local tax revenue so the return on the states investment is better than three to one,” Menius said.

“The belt tightening of the state arts council is a pennywise and a pound foolish any way you look at it.”

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