Council compromises on amusement tax dispute with new venues
By Jamie Wiggan
McKees Rocks council struck a compromise within an ongoing dispute over amusement taxes Sept. 15, by voting to reduce the rate on admissions fees from 10% to 5%.
Questions first arose about the enforcement of the borough’s 1983 amusement tax ordinance soon after 1,400-capacity music venue Roxian Theatre opened in May 2019.
Several months later, the borough invoiced the new venue for a backlog of amusement taxes accrued since its opening show.
Reportedly claiming never to have been made aware of the tax, Roxian Live refused to pay up.
The issue surfaced publicly during a heated council meeting in November 2019, when Councilwoman Liz Delgado suggested the borough lower the tax or scrap it altogether.
Delgado argued the tax had not been enforced for many years despite being on the books and was now being wielded against the Roxian due to political motivations fueled by its association with the McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation.
At the time, Delgado’s proposal was shouted down by other officials, with Tax Collector Tracey Pedersen urging her to “step down.”
President Paul Krisby however set a different tone during September’s meeting, where his motion to reduce the tax rate was approved by all eight councilmembers in attendance. Vice President Kathy Evich was absent.
“The five percent is competitive with the City of Pittsburgh,” Krisby said. “It didn’t work on 10, maybe we can get something on five.”
Interviewed after the meeting, Roxian Live Partner John Sieminski also seemed willing to cooperate with the borough.
“We believe it’s a move in the right direction,” he said.
“We’re generally pleased and appreciative of President Krisby and his council’s support, and we look forward to continuing to work with the borough on other outstanding issues.”
Krisby told council the question of unpaid taxes remains a separate issue from the move to lower the tax, which he said would be enforced “across the board” starting from November.
Borough receipts from 2018-19 indicate only adult nightclub Club Erotica — which negotiated a flat monthly agreement with the borough more than 20 years ago — has paid a regular amusement tax in recent years.
The amusement tax ordinance lists nearly 50 forms of activity, extending from sporting events to music and dance performances, for which the borough is entitled to take a cut of admissions fees.
Krisby later confirmed the borough’s agreement with the Club Erotica would not be affected by the revised ordinance.
“It’s a grandfathered agreement,” he said. “It has nothing to do with it.”