Publisher's Note: Meals and rooms tax
By Jody Reese
Both the house and senate are considering a law change that would allow towns and cities to tax meals and rooms. In a roundabout way, this is a great idea, though not in its current form.
As it is now, meals and room tax dollars flow from the taxpayer (you restaurant customers) to the state and are partially paid back to those cities and towns based on population, not on the amount of tax collected in those communities. This has always been unfair. The very nature of generating more meals and rooms revenue (having more hotels and restaurants in your town) means a greater need for policing, firefighting, health inspection and other services. But under the current rules these more entertainment-heavy towns, such as Manchester, Nashua, Derry, Milford and Concord, don’t get any additional benefit. So allowing them to capture some of their own revenue would go a long way to making the system more fair.
However, the current Meals and Rooms Tax is already much too high — at 9 percent it’s one of the highest in the country (and you thought we had no broad-base tax here).
A better solution would be to reduce the state portion to less than 5 percent and then let towns add a tax of up to 3 percent on top of that (frankly I think the tax should be lower than 8 percent, but in this climate that’s not very realistic).
Allowing towns to capture their own meals and rooms revenue would encourage towns to develop more hotels and restaurants, and that’s almost always a good thing.
Park loses theater and film
This is a tough year for free outdoor entertainment in Manchester. First, Rock 101 cancels the Memorial Day weekend fireworks and Sky Show. And the New Thalian Players have cancelled their annual Theatre in the Park production. And now it looks like the movie series the City offered last year won’t return. A bright spot: Intown Manchester will likely sponsor a live music series starting in July.
Unsurprisingly, money — or rather the lack of money — is at the root of all the cancellations. In the case of Theater in the Park, $40,000 or so needed to be raised and getting a few thousand from here or there wasn’t going to cover it. In the past Sarah Silverman, daughter of Players founder Beth Ann O’Hara, had participated in benefit shows at the Palace Theatre to raise the funds, but that wasn’t able to happen this year and frankly it’s not really fair to expect Silverman to ride to the rescue each year.
As for the movie series, this summer City money wasn’t available. Unfortunately, there isn’t a silver-bullet solution here. Perhaps a public art fund could be established to help pay for these kinds of events, but then that always raises the specter of competing with other arts groups, such as the Palace in Manchester, that also need funds. I guess the real question for all of us is what is the value of free outdoor arts and entertainment?