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Visitor tax: clarification

A discerning reader wrote the Current this week regarding last week's cover story, "Welcome to San Antonio." The story, about  hospitality and car-rental industry concerns over extending the venue tax that paid for the AT&T Center in order to build and refurbish a host of new projects, from amateur-sports facilities to a performing-arts center, reported that the same law that authorizes a tax on hotel rooms and auto rentals to build tourism-related venues would also allow voters to approve a ticket and/or parking tax -- on events at the AT&T Center, for instance -- for the same purpose.  But Bexar County Civil Division Chief Ed Schweninger said the County had decided not to go that route. “We just simply made a conscious decision to charge visitors,” he told the Current, “and we weren’t going to charge a ticket tax because a lot of locals were going to be using the facilities.”

" ... there is, in fact, a [Spurs] ticket tax already -- $1 on every ticket, plus $1 on parking, which the spurs must use on 'renewal and replacement,'" wrote our sharp-eyed citizen. That money goes toward the Spurs required $1 million/year maintenance fund -- the same fund that some voters think should also pay for the unspecified "upgrades" in the venue-tax -- pardon us, visitor tax -- proposals.

The Spurs can charge whatever the market will bear for game tickets and parking, says Schweninger, but their contract with the County authorizes the separate fees, which do not count as revenue for the purposes of their revenue-sharing agreement. "It's completely for their convenience," said Schweninger, and they're under no obligation to charge it. They are required to maintain the AT&T Center to a standard based on comparable top-notch arenas, even if the expense of that exceeds the Spurs $1 million annual maintenance fund.

The County could ask voters to add an additional tax to tickets but has no plans to do so, according to Schweninger, and our reader (and the Current) suspects that would go over like a lead zeppelin.

Posted by Elaine Wolff on 4/3/2008
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