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Westmoreland

Irwin drops amusement tax plans for 2019

Joe Napsha
| Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, 10:00 p.m.
Lamp Theatre in Irwin
Lamp Theatre in Irwin

Patrons of The Lamp Theatre in Irwin won’t have to pay a “ticket tax” to see a performance at the venue in 2019, nor will the theater operators have to absorb the tax next year.

Irwin Borough, which has debated for the past several months instituting an amusement tax, tabled the proposal — at least until a new council takes office in January 2020, President Rick Burdelski said.

“The Lamp wanted a little bit more time” to continue operations under the current structure that does not include an amusement tax, Burdelski said.

John Gdula, president of The Lamp Theatre Corp., the non-profit that operates the facility, said the decision to postpone any amusement tax “gives us the time to look at future budgets and better understand how it will impact future programming.”

The amusement tax was not tabled during a vote at a council meeting, and the borough did not advertise details of any amusement tax it was considering.

Council members this summer discussed levying a 5 percent tax on the admission fee for entertainment, with the exception of those events sponsored by nonprofit charitable groups such as schools and churches. Last month, council members considered changing the tax to a $1 flat fee on tickets, which would have made it easier for accounting purposes, since ticket prices vary.

An amusement tax would have had the greatest effect on The Lamp, but it also would impact any business that charges an entry fee to see entertainment — such as a movie, concert, comedy act or theater production. The Lamp Theatre, which closed in 2004, reopened in November 2015 after extensive remodeling.

Supporters of The Lamp had protested the possible implementation of the tax, claiming it would hurt the new business. During a protest in August, a supporter parked his hearse in front of the building to symbolize the death of the Lamp, if the tax was implemented.

Not having the tax next year “will help us move forward with our programming,” Gdula said.

Council members countered that such a tax would be a “pass-through” to patrons, who would essentially pay it in higher prices. They also said that the borough is responsible for major maintenance of the building because it owns the structure.

There was some consideration for approving an amusement tax this year that would not take effect until January 2020. But, according to borough solicitor Zachary Kansler, council can’t enact a tax during the tenure of one group of council members and delay its effective date until another group takes office. The seats of three Republican council members — Debbie Kelly, Michael Yunn and Burdelski — are up for election in 2019.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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