|State Theatre artist?|
Browne told Council that the State Theatre helps drive Easton's economy, especially the "wonderful explosion" of downtown restaurants, to the tune of $8 million per year. But under questioning by Tom Dietrich, she indicated that Easton has made no financial contributions to the State.
Of course, that's because Easton collects no hotel tax. These are not real estate tax dollars but hotel tax proceeds, which are to be directed to programs that will promote tourism.
Browne and her development director took pains to point out that the State Theatre is a nonprofit, a "dicey financial model."
"I'm concerned that, year after year, we're going to have to contribute more and more of our hotel tax to your bottom line, stated Council member Lamont McClure. Council member Bob Werner told the State that the National Endowment for the Arts has $150 million available for grants.
The average artist's fee is around $50,000, with another $50,000 to produce the show.
From the peanut gallery later in the meeting, the Northampton County Bulldog, Ron Angle, criticized Council for failing to ask one very important question. "None of you asked the two people standing here what their pay was. It may be a not-for-profit, but what do the people working in the not-for-profit make? It may interest you to know it's the low to mid 6 figures for both of them. But again, what's another little handout from the tax money?"
The most recent 990 for the State Theatre on file reveals that, as of May 31, 2011, CEO Shelley Browne was being paid a salary and benefits package of $155,503. It's about $2,000 less than she was paid the preceding year. She is the only employee with a 6-figure income.
I don't like the idea of hotel tax money being used to promote tourism when we have overflowing homeless shelters, but until state law changes, this does seem like a good investment with lots of returns for Easton.