The Cheney City Council addressed a proposed new ordinance that would create an admissions tax that would affect EWU during their City Council Meeting on Feb. 22.
First proposed at the council’s Feb. 8 meeting, the tax ordinance would be applied to any event that required payment or a donation for admission.
If the ordinance was approved, it would go into effect as early as July 1.
When an ordinance goes before the council, it requires three readings before it can become a law. The Feb. 22 meeting would have been the second reading of the ordinance.
According to the Cheney City Administrator Paul Schmidt, the Ordinance was to be read the second time and sent back to the General Government Committee.
“What we proposed this evening … as far as council action requested, was to have a second reading and then defer this back to the General Government Committee for some further review and discussion,” Schmidt said.
The ordinance has exemptions for admissions costs under 10 cents, admission charges to events sponsored by a school district to an elementary or secondary school, or a person paying an admission fee for an activity or performance of a non-profit organization that can furnish proof of their tax exemption.
Ordinance number T-87 defines the tax imposed in section 5.40.020 as “a tax in the amount of 5 percent of the admission charge shall be levied and imposed upon every person including children, without regard to age, who pays an admission charge to any place, including a tax on persons who are admitted free of charge or at reduced rates to any place for which other persons pay a charge or a regular higher charge for the same or similar privileges or accommodations.”
In addition to the admission tax, the ordinance would require financial records of the events kept for up to two years, and the applicable tax forms completed correctly.
The revenue from the tax would go toward the overtime put in by the Cheney Fire and Police Departments at the events held, as well as to support the city’s banner policy.
Several EWU students and faculty members attended the council meeting to speak out against the proposed new admissions tax.
Many worry that the tax would affect mostly EWU events including those sponsored by Clubs and Organizations and the Athletic Department.
Student Organizations and Greek Life Advisor James Mohr spoke to the council to convey his concerns that the proposed tax would have on student organizations.
“It’s requiring students to submit paperwork to the city that is above and beyond what they give to the university,” Mohr said. “Our student organizations don’t have that kind of capacity to store stuff for two years. They don’t have office space; they don’t have a place to keep all that kind of material. So asking them to maintain it for two years, and for students to know it exists two years later may be a hardship on them and may be something they cannot accomplish.”
Victor Rodriguez, who was representing the Chicano organization, M.E.ch.A., agreed with Mohr. He cited a conference the Chicano club held over the weekend that attracted nearly 200 students. The conference aimed to inform youth about the benefits of higher education.
“If this tax becomes law or an ordinance, something like that could not happen,” Rodriguez said. “What we charged for the conference was what the cost of the conference was. We weren’t there to make a profit.”
The coordinator of C.A.R.E. (Creating a Rape-Free Environment), Shannon Webb, spoke out on behalf of her organization who also felt they would be negatively impacted.
“I just hope that you pay attention and understand that this isn’t like a huge sporting event where there’s a lot of people and a lot of paid staff working on the event. There are a lot of student organizations that are just two or three students that are just trying to make a change,” Webb said.
Webb also voiced concern that small organizations like C.A.R.E. would not be able to handle the paper load involved in an admissions tax.
Athletic Director Scott Barnes expressed appreciation that the council had decided to send the ordinance back to the General Government Committee for revision and discussion.
“I’d like to applaud the council’s motion to further discuss this and to come into conversation with our university,” Barnes said.
He also pointed out that the biggest group who would be affected by the proposed tax is the athletic programs, with large events like the Governor’s Cup.
“This initiative or ordinance could create quite a few issues for us. One is that our budget at intercollegiate athletics to put these events on is very fragile,” Barnes said. “This type of tax is going to undoubtedly diminish our ability to put on a quality event that we all have in Cheney.”
Another concern of the athletic department was that if the tax took effect, the university would have to move large events to somewhere other than Cheney.
“Because of the specific guarantees mandated by the NCAA, this ordinance would cause us to move the game elsewhere to meet the bottom line,” Barnes said.