Anaheim plans to ask voters for a 2% tax on tickets to Disneyland and other locations – Orange County Register

As Anaheim plans to balance its budget with borrowed money for the next few fiscal years, Councilman Jose Moreno wants to let city voters decide whether to impose a 2% tax on park tickets themed and other large venues — a move that could potentially raise $55 million to $82 million a year for city services and projects.

That money could mean building a second public swimming pool, restoring library services seven days a week, hiring more police and firefighters, or building and staffing a senior center. dedicated to serving residents, said Moreno.

He tried to get the board to consider a “head tax” for several years; with the resignation in May of former mayor Harry Sidhu – who with majority support blocked discussion of the issue – he now can. The potential tax measure is on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.

But Anaheim having never charged such a tax before, that it would require voter approval and would require five of six council members to even agree to put it on the fall ballot, does not indicate a clear path for the proposal.

The idea of ​​a head tax has been the third rail of Anaheim politics for years. A 1996 city agreement with Disney exempted the company’s theme parks from ticket taxes until at least 2016, and the stadium lease with Angels Baseball—conceived in 1996 when Disney owned the team—includes a clause that if such a tax is imposed on Angel Stadium admissions, the city would pass the proceeds back to the team.

In 2015, when the theme park exemption was set to expire, the city council (in a 3-2 vote) chose to extend it for another three decades in exchange for Disney’s commitment to invest $1 billion in and around its parks.

But three years later, with a tax incentive for luxury hotels and the head tax deal become “a flashpoint for controversy and divisiveness in our community,” as Josh D ‘Amaro, then president of Disneyland Resort, Disney asked Anaheim to tear up this agreement.

Moreno said Friday he was “devastated” by the staff’s estimate of how many millions a 2% tax would generate.

HI’s proposal would apply the tax to tickets sold by privately operated or managed venues with a capacity of more than 15,000 people (this would exclude the convention center, which the city owns and manages). Most of the revenue would come from Disneyland and Disney California Adventure admissions, with some from the Honda Center, a city location with outside management.

Moreno said he looked at ticket tax policies in 13 other cities, including Pasadena and Monterey, and most of them add a 5% surcharge. Adding 2% would mean a visitor would pay about $2 more for the cheapest all-day ticket to a Disney park. People who spend more on theme park upgrades or luxury boxes at the arena would pay more taxes, which Moreno said he thinks is fairer, and a percentage fee would adjust. to inflation.

“To me, this is a great opportunity for a revenue stream that we know we’re going to need,” Moreno said, noting that last year the board voted to issue more than $130 million in debt. Bonds to Cover a Projected Multi-Year Shortfall After the Impact of the Pandemic on Revenues.

Hotel taxes – one of the city’s main sources of revenue – have rebounded faster than expected after falling off a cliff in the first year or so of the pandemic, but the bonds will have to be repaid and there is still little left. room in the budget to develop staff or city services.

Disney and Honda Center officials declined to comment on the proposed tax.

If the board agreed, Anaheim voters would see the 2% ticket tax measure in the November ballot. But that seems unlikely, given that Moreno needs four more votes.

Asked about his seemingly slim chances of success, Moreno said he hopes his generally anti-tax colleagues will “understand that it’s not about whether they support the tax themselves — it’s about whether they believe the people should have the right to vote on a tax.”

As Moreno sees it, he said, there is value in talking about the idea publicly, even if it is rejected, because that is what democracy is.

“Even though I don’t have the votes, I just want to give the benefit of consideration,” he said. “I don’t want to sit in the back room and decide.”

Herman C. Harkins