Game Over or Free Life?
I noticed something interesting when I looked at the agenda for tonight’s borough Finance and Personnel Committee meeting – a discussion on amendments to the Amusement Tax. So I Googled what that tax covered and saw that the owners of a “coin-operated amusement device” were to pay a $50 yearly tax. (Jukeboxes are a steal at $10 per year.) I immediately thought of Timeline Arcade and the newly-opened Bentzel Amusements. My worries were confirmed when Timeline owner Brandon Spencer chimed in on Facebook
The town wants to change the coin operated amusement device tax law. This would mean that any video or pinball game would be taxed even if it dosnt take money. This would also hurt gamestop and other video games stores. Any game would have to be taxed, even if you play on your cell phone
The wide-ranging ramifications never dawned on me, and I doubt the borough would ever even try to enforce it to that letter, but the reality is that the borough needs money, sees a successful business (or two) and wants to get that money from them.
Now, to be fair, the law was already on the books, and a place like Timeline (where you pay for how long you play and don’t actually put coins in the machine) is in kind of an unintentional grey area because their business model didn’t completely exist when the ordinance was created. I would hope that the amendment would be to create some wide-ranging look at how to assess some sort of tax without being onerous. I sincerely doubt it though.
We know the borough has fiscal issues, but this is not the way to go about trying to solve them. Changing a law and then going to someone who is trying to revitalize downtown and asking for money – if that is the case – really looks crappy. But then what doesn’t from council?
At the same time, they are looking at financing options for a ladder truck which will cost way more than the borough will ever get from Timeline. And let’s not even get into the boondoggle to buy the Tanger Building so that
James Holmes Richard Lopez Fire Chief Jan Cromer can have a new office using funds the borough hopes to raise from the sale of other properties.
All this is piled on top of the absurd medical plan for staff that costs taxpayers untold sums and the addition of a Council Treasurer to take over work the old Council Treasurer apparently couldn’t handle (although the salary there hasn’t changed, has it?).
But, by all means, take the money from a local business instead of getting your own house in order. I can’t make it tonight most likely, but please go if you can and ask the borough to focus on bigger issues first. Of course, you won’t get much chance to speak because John Gerken and Brab Krebs really don’t care what we think.