Monday, November 19, 2012

State Theatre Wants $35k Increase in Hotel Tax Revenue

State Theatre artist?
At the November 15 meeting of Northampton County Council, Easton's State Theatre asked that its annual allocation of hotel tax money be increased from $25,000 to $60,000. CEO Shelley Browne explained that the explosion of events centers in the Lehigh Valley has made it more difficult for the nonprofit to book acts. "We can't pay what other venues can pay," she stated.

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.

59 comments:

Anonymous said...

County Coucil didn't ask the same questions of SteelStacks, et al. Nor did they ask Mr.Parks salary. The theatre provides more than just quality entertrainment and business for restaurants. It is truly a gem of the past and we need to protect our historic assets. These buildings taks a lot more to maintain and repair than a big box event center with no character. I do not mean to Sands has done a lot for the valley and their event center is nice but it is not the State Theatre.

County Council needs to do more to promote the history and arts in our county.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Are you kidding me? McClure made quite a few snide references to Parks. His salary was quite the topic, here in the newspapers and at Council. Barron von Footinmouth conducted one of his bogus investigations.

They are both worthy, and you don't establish that one is good by running down the other.

Anonymous said...

The State Theatre is stunning but if it can't pay its bills now what's it gonna do when the Sands opens a convention center? The annual
requests will only grow as homeowners struggle to pay property tax.

Anonymous said...

Werner is very naive and clueless. To think that he is aware of a funding source that professionals are not and that he needs to suggest such publicly only makes him look silly. Show some respect Mr. Werner and get over yourself. If you want to really be helpful, commincate that via simple conversation outside of the public view.

Anonymous said...

Even a person who runs a little theater makes more than the County Executive, That is the joke here.

Mark Baker said...

take the money out of farm preservation or the white elephant gracedale

Anonymous said...

Here's a novel idea -

Why not charge the people who actually USE the theater a little bit more to attend a show?

Adding $1 to the cost of a ticket doesn't seem like a hardship and should generate much more than $35,000 over the course of a season.

That said, if attendance drops, it will say something about the value that theater users place on the venue.

Of course, it's always easier to convince a few elected officials to fork over more government dough than to actually make your case to the public.

Anonymous said...

Privatize it and let the free market take it's course!

Anonymous said...

Problem with the State Theatre is that is keeps trotting out the same tired acts year after year. They need to take a sober look at their business model. THeir competition now includes the Sands event center which is able to book better shows through Live Nation. If you have only $50 to buy a ticket would you rather see Clay Aiken in a modern concert facility or William Shatner in an old theatre with cramped seating?

Anonymous said...

Problem with the State Theatre is that is keeps trotting out the same tired acts year after year. They need to take a sober look at their business model. THeir competition now includes the Sands event center which is able to book better shows through Live Nation. If you have only $50 to buy a ticket would you rather see Clay Aiken in a modern concert facility or William Shatner in an old theatre with cramped seating?

Anonymous said...

The state theater has been provided welfare payments for far too long. Yea it's a real nice venue and all but the whining being doe by the director is old news and pisses off some people in the long run.

Sell it as mentioned above and then maybe the place would make some money on it's own!

Kevin C. said...

Souldn't hotel tax revenue go to pay for things which bring in tourists who will actually stay at hotels?

Kevin C. said...

Souldn't hotel tax revenue go to pay for things which bring in tourists who will actually stay at hotels?

Bernie O'Hare said...

No, Kevin, it is enough that it promotes tourism. But I would imagine that many of the Act coming to the State do stay in local hotels.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Between Shatner and Aiken, i pick neither.

Bernie O'Hare said...

6:01, I think Werner was trying to be helpful. He has never held office before, and has done some strange things, like "chide" the press or spend a meeting discussing a hurricanes effect on the election instead of the people. But he works very hard and is learning very fast.

Anonymous said...

Their problems will only get worse as every city gets their own arena/performing arts center.

Anonymous said...

State Theater - PA Turnpike

Let the users pay the freight.


VOR

Anonymous said...

Angle is a blowhard.

$155K seems about right to run an operation like that.

Anonymous said...

"$155K seems about right to run an operation like that."

Well, yes. In the bizarro world of subsidized theaters, it seems fine. In the real world, that job wouldn't exist in Easton.

Shelly's a 1-percenter making a subsidized salary that would feed scores of homeless who camp under the Buskill Street bridge, just two and a half blocks from her office. It's time to Occupy Shelly and demand economic justice.

Anonymous said...

Answer to the question posed in the photo caption: yes. He's a professional bullshit artist.

Untouched Takeaway said...

The Aiken/Shatner comparison is not the best one you could have come up with.

My guess is that the fan base for Clay Aiken and "The Shat" are light years away from one another.

Anonymous said...

Aiken/Shatner comparison was not meant to demonstrate similar acts but to compare a modern popular act with one that features a has-been who survives on Priceline ads. I am not an Aiken fan but at least he is currently a star entertainer v. The tired shows booked by the State. Bill O'Reilly? Shatner? Midnight Catechism? Really??

Anonymous said...

Well, yes. In the bizarro world of subsidized theaters, it seems fine. In the real world, that job wouldn't exist in Easton.

Shelly's a 1-percenter making a subsidized salary that would feed scores of homeless who camp under the Buskill Street bridge, just two and a half blocks from her office. It's time to Occupy Shelly and demand economic justice.


Well, this post is full of shit on numerous levels but since it sounds like you know this person personally, I'm sure you know that.

First, $155K is a 1%er? You are a joke.

Second, a cursory examination reveals that the theater receives some funding from the NEA and a plethora of private sponsors. Most artistic ventures are "subsidized" by private and public components otherwise people like you (actually, not people like you, you'd watch Ted Nugent reality shows anyway) would not be exposed to any arts.

Thirdly, it is not the business of every person who makes a decent living to pull the homeless off the street. I'm sure you never did it in your life.

Anonymous said...

Those who pay taxes expect them to be used for human services. Human services doesn't include non-profit directors taking $155K - which puts Shelly in the "have" column vs. "have not;" thus, the 1-percenter charge.

Interesting that when one questions a public expenditure, the questioner's charity is called into question. One has nothing to do with the other - except in the minds of those who believe charity is how they spend others' money.

Subsidizing the Bill O'Reilly tour and Lisa Lampanelli's foul humor should be done by the idiots who would go to such trash. I imagine you're one. Yes. I imagine you're certainly one.

Anonymous said...

Art and culture is a human service. I'd certainly rather have my taxes go there than to buy empty farmland in the slate belt.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Those who pay taxes expect them to be used for human services. Human services doesn't include non-profit directors taking $155K - which puts Shelly in the "have" column vs. "have not;" thus, the 1-percenter charge."

I'm with you and can think of more worthy causes. But hotrel tax money must be used to promote tourism.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the question is whether Art and Culture is or isn't a human service. I think the question is whether one of the core functions of County government is to fund selected non-profits at the expense of taxpayers.

I would argue that which non-profits are funded, what salaries they pay, and what public function they serve, is best left outside of county (and all) government.

There is no way that the county could adequately fund all worthy non-profits. The public can decide on their own which non-profits they want to fund.

Anonymous said...

The only non-profits the county should fund, if any, are ones thta provide a basic service to people in need.

Enough with the funding of events were "select" people get preferential seating and VIP treatemnt.


Sorry!

Anonymous said...

What about the Easton's $500K from gaming?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'm sorry but don't understand your point here.

Anonymous said...

Shelly is hot,

Anonymous said...

That last comment is nearly enough to make me hurl.

Guy Williams said...

Lets face it Shelly does a great job but in this case I think her creativity is in order. Why not as a give back she makes the State Theater available to the Northamton County School districts at no charge at select times for educational purposes or for say a county wide talent show.She has done extremely well with the freddys but for the extra money she is asking for there has got to be a way to give back to benefit Northamton county residents.Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

I think the one comment was how the new table games, gaming money that should have gone to Northampton County was carved out in a political deal in Harrisburg and goiven to Easton. Much the same way politics was used to give over half the original casino money from the ocunty to Allentown and Lehigh County.

Bottom line, Northampton County government got screwed and lost money

Anonymous said...

To 8:09 am, much rather see William Shatner in a crowded theatre than Clay Aiken at the Sands any day?! Terrible analagy, thats your choice of a top notch artist? Some people prefer the historic buildings for a venue, and Clay Aiken really, your Lame. F the Sands. How about the State Theatre should start bringing some more quality stand up acts. saw Loiu ck there,Epic show! Great venue!

Anonymous said...

Read the 990. Not only was Shelley Brown compensated over $155,000 in 2010, her husband managed their non-profit annuity program. I am sure there is some form of compensation for that. How convenient.

How many of their board members live in Northampton County? There appears to be some form of incestuous relationship here.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I think the one comment was how the new table games, gaming money ..."

In other words, an irrelevant comment.

Anonymous said...

To think Sammy Benett was hammered for total compesation of 110k kudos to lilly ledbetter

Anonymous said...

Sam Bennett was hammered for taking more than 1/3 of a $300k state grant and using it to pay herself to run a brand new nonprofit.

To compare her with Shelley Brown is ridiculous.

The Banker

Anonymous said...

I think the real issue here is that someone would rather see Clay Aiken than William Shatner! Shame on you 8:09am, shame on you!

Anonymous said...

Can hockey be played in the State Theatre?

Anonymous said...

10:24 = Star Trek geek

Anonymous said...

The Baker is right. Sam Bennet was willing to have herself made open to puyblic scrutiny, Shelly Brown, her husband and all these incestuopus non-profits want the cash but don'[t want to give out the info.

Sorry, Rommney lost. Only the poor get handouts now, remember what Mitt said. The bankerss and non-profit dierectors have to work for thier handouts like the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

And much to The Baker's chagrin, Sam Bennett is now a Washington celebrity debating loons like Monica Crowley on FoxNews.

Anonymous said...

In the non-profit world, arts as well as human services, compensation is usually tied to the size of the entity's budget. So, yes, you will see human services CEO's making six figures. What does Susan Gilmore make at United Way, or Jane Ervin at LVCC?

That is why Sam Bennett's salary was so disgraceful- the budget was a tiny one in comparison to her compensation.

Anonymous said...

Shelly is worth every penny.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I am a bit curious abut her husband's involvement. Might be totally innocuous, especially if it appears on the 990.

Anonymous said...

Shelly's contribution to Easton is fucking huge.
She deserves a ton of credit for bring that town back.

Anonymous said...

B-b-b-b-but her salary could pay to house the homeless under the bridge!

Anonymous said...

11:07=American Idol Nerd

Anonymous said...

Regarding the gaming money and the $15M+ in local share....your write up suggested Shelly believed the money was needed to help offset losses from competition. The local share was created to address impacts from gaming. Would the Sands event center be considered an adverse impact to the State Theater? Would the Sands Outlet be considered and adverse impact to other retail districts/downtowns? If the money can be used to improve a borough intersection because of inceased traffic, would loss of patron traffic be different? Maybe not relevant, however, I got the impression that is what Shelly was leading to. Lets not forget the Sands has a monopoly.

Bernie O'Hare said...

That is a very interesting theory. Don't tell her.

Anonymous said...

How many people had Shelly brought to Easton over the last, say ten years?

Anonymous said...

If i remember right Home Depots grant was to cover Sams salary.

Guy Williams said...

Politics, Lets face it, If there were any REAL problems with sams state grant or IRS problems she wouldnt be in Washinton,she would be in jail. You dont hoodwink the IRS and wasnt charged with any wrongdoing by the then state attorney general tom corbet.Politics pure and simple.

Bernie O'Hare said...

There was a real problem with it. It might not have risen to the criminal level, but it was unethical and it was more than appropriate to raise the issue.

Guy Williams said...

Bernie,you have a lawyers mindset and like Sam dont shy away from controversy so it would be interesting for you to get Eric Weiss's view on Sam and her non profit.Eric as you know is a highly respected republican and was on the board of directors of the POM.Theres no problem raising the issue its the drawing of conclusions from half truths that are dissapointing.The book is only half done on Sam and you havent seen the last of her.Look at it this way,She put ya on the map so get ready for all the hits on this blog whens shes the subject.Meanwhile shes doing well in washington where the f..k is Bernie K.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The question is not my opinion of Sam Bennett. I never had an unpleasant word with her, even though I was highly criticial of her candidacy and she was critical of my blogging. The question is whether she was being paid too much money, and she clearly was. It was exorbitant, both in relation to the staffing as well as the revenue. I am glad she has found happiness inside the Beltway, and hope she continues to succeed. But let's not pretend that her salary was anything but a joke.