Commissioners reject proposed admissions tax

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

Published:

Updated: November 29, 2011, 1:59 PM

 

Update:

Clark County Commissioners rejected a proposed 5% admissions tax on Tuesday that would have helped bring the Yakima Bears to Vancouver. Commissioner Marc Boldt said he could not support the proposed admissions tax. "Right now, I am sorry, I can't support it, Boldt said.

Original story:

The Board of Clark County Commissioners will vote today on a proposed 5 percent admissions tax.

The public hearing is scheduled toward the end of the meeting, which starts at 10 a.m. at the Clark County Public Service Center, 1300 Franklin St.

The meeting will be broadcast live on CVTV, Comcast channel 23.

If commissioners vote no, it will be the end of talk about bringing the Yakima Bears to Vancouver to play at a new stadium at Clark College.

If commissioners vote yes, the proposal will need to go to the Vancouver City Council. The council would have to approve an interlocal agreement, promising that if during the life of the stadium bonds the city approved an admissions tax over the top of the countywide tax the city would still pay its share.

It's not clear whether Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt, a baseball backer, will be able to get the three councilors he needs to approve the agreement. Councilor Jack Burkman has said he will not support the tax. Other councilors have expressed concern over supporting a tax that's not going toward funding basic public services. However, under the latest proposal the city would receive a share of revenues that could be used for any purpose.

The proposal would also have to be approved by the Northwest League.

The owners of the Class A Yakima Bears expressed interest in moving the team to Vancouver in May.

Earlier proposals, including publicly-backed bonds or expanding the admissions tax to include the Washougal Motocross, have been rejected. The initial price tag has been reduced by $3.5 million.

Under the proposal that commissioners will vote on today, a 5 percent tax would be levied on movie theaters, Sleep Country Amphitheater, the Clark County Fair, professional baseball games and public and private golf courses.

Some of the revenues would go toward the county’s fair fund and the city of Vancouver, not just the $19.5 million stadium.

The tax would expire in 25 years.

The owners of the Bears would arrange financing.

The admissions tax is expected to generate $35.9 million over 25 years. Of that, approximately $20 million would be earmarked for the stadium, with annual payments of $800,000.

Vancouver would get $8.2 million; the remainder would go to a stadium reserve fund (an estimated $2.5 million) and the fairgrounds (a projected $5.2 million.)

The Clark County Fair Board said it was “cautiously supportive” of the proposal because the fair would get back at least the admissions tax revenue that it generates. Fair ticket prices would not be raised because of the tax.

A Nov. 4 letter to Northwest League President Bob Richmond describing the funding proposal was signed by 14 baseball backers, including Leavitt; former Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard; Stuart; Rhona Sen Hoss, chairwoman of the Clark College Trustees; Eric Fuller, chairman of the Columbia River Economic Development Council; and Scott Horenstein, president of the Identity Clark County board of directors.

“With the full faith and support of the undersigned, this letter clearly demonstrates a broad base of community and business support for this project,” reads the letter.

The Bears would play 38 home games a year; Clark College teams would also use the 3,500-seat stadium.

Proponents refer to it as a multi-use stadium to stress that it could have other public uses.

“The basis of our multi-purpose project includes the use of Clark College land and parking, the passing of an admissions fee, and the rebate of a number of different taxes and participation from the team to complete the financing of the project,” the letter reads. “Additionally, the Clark College Foundation will be participating in several different ways; thereby ensuring the success of the project.”

According to a breakdown of $19.5 million in capital costs, the admissions tax would cover $11.8 million, the team would pay $4 million and the Clark College Foundation would pledge $3.5 million.

Lisa Gibert, executive director of the foundation, said earlier this month that up to $3.5 million in future donations would be invested in the stadium. In return, Short Season LLC, the owners of the Yakima Bears, would give the foundation a 3 percent return that would be used annually for athletic scholarships.

The breakdown of costs factored in a $225,000 sales tax construction rebate.

This story will be updated.