Charlemont Passes Town Sales Tax on Berkshire East and Rafting Companies
Local option recreation tax would apply to skiing, rafting, and other commercial recreation.
Sunday, June 12, 2016, NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com
Charlemont voters approved a proposed 3% recreational activities tax on at the third night of the annual town meeting. Town Meeting Warrant 21 states "the town of Charlemont may impose a recreation tax on the fee for service for guided and unguided commercial recreational activities within the town in the amount of three percent of the ticket price."
The proposal now moves to the Massachusetts General Court, which must approve legislation to enact the tax. Selectman Toby Gould stated that State Representative Paul Mark and State Senator Benjamin Downing encouraged the town to pass the proposal so that the legislature would consider a local option tax for Massachusetts.
The proposed recreational tax would be levied on ski lift tickets, lessons, and rentals, as well as mountain biking tickets, whitewater rafting trips, commercial fishing, and other forms of paid recreation in Charlemont. In 2015-16, Berkshire East charged $62 for a weekend full day lift ticket. At that price, the proposed recreational tax would be an additional $1.86 per ticket.
No such tax exists on any other ski area in Massachusetts.
Berkshire East, Crab Apple Whitewater, and Zoar Outdoor all support the proposed tax. While Berkshire East opposed a similar proposed tax over a decade ago, General Manager Jon Schaefer supports the measure, stating, "The town is desperate for money for bridges and other infrastructure and we are extremely committed to helping how we can."
Charlemont Budgetary Issues
The small town has had perpetual budgetary problems which were magnified under the state aid cuts under former Democratic Governor Deval Patrick. According to Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, the Town of Charlemont's local aid was cut 38% from 2008 to 2013. The town has numerous bridges that have not been repaired since Tropical Storm Irene, including one on Tower Road. Without that bridge, the only in-town access for emergency vehicles is via Route 8A. This created issue last week, when a train derailment blocked Route 8A, forcing emergency responders to detour 17 miles through the town of Buckland.
Town voters also approved a 0.75% meals tax at the town meeting.
Massachusetts Tax, Spending, and Debt Issues
Despite the local aid budget cuts, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts finds itself in a difficult financial position under Republican Governor Charlie Baker, who recently completed his first year in office. According to a 2016 study released by the Tax Foundation, Massachusetts collects the 7th highest total state and local tax per capita. Despite the high taxation, Massachusetts has the largest state debt per capita in the country.
Meanwhile, according to the most recent Reason Foundation Annual Highway Report, the state's highway spending per mile ranks 2nd highest in the country, highway administrative spending per mile is the 3rd highest in the country, and capital and bridge disbursements is also the 3rd highest in the country. Despite the spending, Massachusetts ranks 4th in deficient bridges. Charlemont has had five bridges closed or restricted this year alone.
Local Option Sales Tax on New England Ski Areas
A local option sales tax is levied at the time of sale in addition to a state sales tax. The state collects the entire transactional tax, then disburses a portion of the local amount to the town or city. Vermont is the only state in New England that currently has a local option, which is 1% in addition to the state's 6% sales tax. Killington, Stratton, and Middlebury are the only major ski area towns that levy a local option sales tax on all sales. Other resort towns, such as Stowe, levy the tax on rooms and meals. The state provides the towns approximately 70 cents for every one dollar in local option sales tax it collects.