Gray proposes elimination of tax on athletic facilities Council considering bill that would lower the levy

October 21, 1997|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

As the Howard County Council considers a proposal to lower a tax on athletic facilities, one councilman promised last night to eliminate the levy.

Councilman C. Vernon Gray has proposed legislation that would lower the admission and amusement tax for indoor athletic facilities for tennis, baseball, basketball, soccer and volleyball from 7.5 percent of gross receipts to 5 percent.

The council is scheduled to vote on that measure, co-sponsored by County Executive Charles I. Ecker, on Nov. 3.

At a public hearing on the measure last night, Gray said he fTC wants to eliminate the tax on athletic facilities altogether.

But he introduced the tax reduction measure to solve a volleyball and soccer training center's immediate problem, he said.

While the legislation would help six businesses -- Volleyball House, Sharp Farms, Rounding Third, Brunswick Crown Lanes, Sun Spa Tub N Tan and Circle D Club -- it provides the biggest benefit to Volleyball House in Columbia.

These six businesses paid about $3,000 in taxes on receipts of $40,000 in the second quarter, according to the Howard budget office.

Volleyball House owes nearly $60,000 in unpaid admission and amusement taxes and penalties dating to 1994. The proposed legislation -- retroactive to Sept. 1, 1994 -- would effectively lower the tax bill by one-third.

"This is a bill for tax fairness in the county," Gray said during the hearing.

About 60 county businesses in about 20 categories -- such as amusement rides, driving ranges and movie theaters -- pay the tax, which generates about $1.1 million a year.

The admission and amusement tax applies to admission to a facility, the use of a game, recreation or sports facility, and the use or rental of recreational and sports equipment.

The County Council can exempt some facilities from the tax, and it has done so for the Columbia Association and the county Department of Recreation and Parks because they are nonprofit and governmental groups, respectively.

But Gray pointed out that while the Columbia Association is nonprofit, it operates its athletic clubs and golf courses for profit.

"I don't understand why a small facility like the Volleyball House is required to pay a 7.5 percent tax while CA, which is building a $6 million athletic facility [in the River Hill village], pays no tax at all," Gray said. "We need to look into that issue."

Judy De Jong, president of the Volleyball House, testified that if Gray's tax reduction measure passes, it would shave $15,000 off her tax bill. She asked the council to eliminate the tax altogether and make it retroactive to 1992.

Pub Date: 10/21/97

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