Dorney amusement tax called into question

Posted Friday, August 11, 2006 8:54 AM | Contributed by Jeff

State Rep. Doug Reichley has warned South Whitehall Township that $1 million in amusement-tax revenue from Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom is in jeopardy, and urged township officials to plan for the shortfall. Reichley, in a July 21 letter to commissioners, painted himself as doing what he could, along with fellow Lehigh County Republican Rep. Julie Harhart, ''to convince our colleagues to block the repeal of the amusement tax as far as your township and Dorney Park are concerned.''

Read more from The Morning Call.

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Friday, August 11, 2006 9:18 AM
Interesting contrast in the news section. Read the Great Wolf post above and you see how much money tourism can bring to the local economy. This article reads as if the local economy would tank IF God-forbid, an excessive amusement tax was taken away.

Local politicians like to have it both ways. They complain about excess service used by large amusement parks while denying, or simply ignoring the fact that these amusement parks already provide a large portion of income to the local government.

The excess tax is "about 6.5 percent of the township's $15 million budget." I wonder how much, as a percentage, the total tax burden Dorney represents for the township?

Friday, August 11, 2006 9:25 AM
I say, get rid of the tax for all of the parks. It's not fair that some small community can give their residents big tax relief off of the backs of visitors that live elsewhere. Taxes like hotel taxes and amusement taxes, if present, should be use solely to pay for infrastructure and extra services that the facilities affected require or for projects that benefit them.

Also, Conneaut Lake Park, Bushkill Park, and Lakemont Park can use every bit of help that they can get so that they don't go the way of Williams Grove. As for KW, this is one of the things that could enable the park to go ahead with part of their expansion even while the new highway remains in doubt.

I don't believe that that legislator's ideas are going to go over well in other parts of Lehigh County. Residents of Allentown certainly don't like paying the tax when their city doesn't benefit from it.

Friday, August 11, 2006 10:32 AM
Gemini's avatar Is it fair that small communities have to deal with the pain and aggravation of tourists and not get some benefit? There is a danger of going too far, but let's not take an enthusiast/defend-the-parks attitude and think that communities are allowed nothing.
Friday, August 11, 2006 11:50 AM
Last time I checked, Dorney Park has been where it is since 1894. Things to consider when buying a house: Would you mind living near an amusement park?
Friday, August 11, 2006 1:18 PM
Quote from the Wolf Lodge article above...

"Tourism, the county's top industry, brings in about $600 million a year in admission fees, hotel stays and other spending, according to the bureau."


Would you consider $600 million in taxable income, numerous job creations (which creates more taxable income), etc to be considered "some benifit?"

Friday, August 11, 2006 2:13 PM
Gemini's avatar That number sounds impressive, but how much of that $600 million does a city actually see?

I'm not arguing whether or not admissions tax is a good thing. I'm arguing against the enthusiast mentality that something levied against an amusement park is automatically bad. With the tunnel vision that can occur around here, some may not realize that admissions tax is hardly limited to cities with amusement parks.

No one complains about paying an admissions tax when they see the Cleveland Indians play a baseball game. But tax my roller coasters and watch out!

Should we eliminate all admissions taxes, or just the admissions tax in small towns with amusement parks?

Friday, August 11, 2006 3:31 PM
I think all excess taxes are crazy. Individuals and businesses should pay the same flat rate. But that is a whole other argument.

"That number sounds impressive, but how much of that $600 million does a city actually see?"

I'm guessing a whole lot...? You've got property tax on a large chunk of land. You've got income tax at business rates on the profits. Then you get into the people employed at these parks generating $600 million per year. Each of those people pay income taxes and then buy goods and services. A lot of these goods and services are bought in the same area as the park. I could even go into hotel/motel taxes, rental cars, etc...

Needless to say...big tourist industries have no choice but to help the local economy even if tey were taxed fairly (my opinion)! I live in Vegas...I could tell you a thing or two about businesses taking a huge tax burden off the public. We vote rental car and hotel tax increases all the time. I think it is WRONG!

Saturday, August 12, 2006 10:35 AM
I think the main reason is that the people who are taxed, don't have no vote. Look at it from the perspective of the locals. Raise my property tax by $100/year, or increase the tax on the tourists.
Saturday, August 12, 2006 1:30 PM
What I find interesting is that Dorney isn't complaining about the tax... so why repeal it?
Saturday, August 12, 2006 2:58 PM
There has to be consistency. Either everyone pays or nobody pays. According to the article movie theatres are exempt from paying any amusement tax, and golf courses pay only a limited amount. South Whitehall has plenty of other "entertainment venues." I guess politicans spend more time on the greens than on coasters. It's also safe to say that without Dorney Park, there would be fewer hotels along Route 222 and 100. Each room there pays a room tax 3-4 percent above the regular state income tax.

That's the main problem with Pennsylvania. Any time they pass some sort of legislation, they put so many loopholes and exemptions for certain interests, that it's just a shell of what it's supposed to be. Some people pay through the nose while others skate through scot-free.

To their credit, South Whitehall doesn't seem to hassle Dorney as much as other parks in other locations. But don't forget that every sizable addition to either DP, WWK, or even the parking lots requires submission of a land development plan to the township and building permits. Townships make thousands of dollars in review and permit fees-- including engineering and legal review fees.

Considering that Dorney is providing them 6.5 percent of their budget, the township should be kissing their behinds and making sure Dorney is around for a long time.


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