Power of the Arts Pushes Cigarette Tax for Funding
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- What's worked for Cleveland will work for the Mahoning Valley. That’s what the leaders of Power of the Arts hope as they advocate legislation that would amend the Ohio Revised Code to allow Mahoning and Trumbull County commissioners to impose a tax on cigarettes to fund the arts.
Before commissioners could do so, voters would have to vote for such a tax.
State law allows metropolitan areas with a “qualifying regional arts and cultural district” and a population of 1.2 million or more to place a tax on cigarettes to fund art programs.
Only the Cleveland metro area meets those criteria.
Such a tax, says Bryan DePoy, dean of the College of Creative Arts and Communications at Youngstown State University, would be 1.5 cents per cigarette. Power of the Arts estimates that the tax would generate an extra $6 million in funding for both counties.
“Many people within the community value the role of arts and culture within the region. There's a sustainable plan in place that will hopefully get us on the way to public funding of the arts,” DePoy said Friday a town hall meeting held a YSU. “Investing in arts and culture is good business for the community. It generates a direct impact so any investment in arts and culture will provide a good return.”
Terry Cloonan, co-chairman of the group's community advisory council and a trust officer at Huntington Bank, posited that the direct economic impact of the arts in the Mahoning Valley is $25 million per year.
At the town hall meeting, Power of the Arts board members updated the audience on their efforts to place such a tax on the ballot.
“We have not gotten what we wanted and we are working very hard,” said Mark Mangie, co-vice chairman of the advisory council. He added that the group has “been pounding at this for three years.”
Many of the arts community members who arrived seemed to be in favor of the tax, including Richard Hahn, owner of Keynote Media Group.
“The organization is in great shape and has a lot of interest, but without this law being changed, it will be very difficult to move forward because that's where the revenue is going to come from. I think the cigarette tax is the way to go,” he said.
The council also discussed the results of a survey with its to its members, finding that many members want a push in advertising.
Hahn believes that while increasing awareness of the group will be beneficial, the money just isn't there right now.
“I don't think they have the money to advertise per se, but there's a marketing issue that has to be taken care of through PR, social media and word of mouth. That's the real key element,” he said.
As for the future of the group, members of the council said they will continue to pursue changing the law, one saying, “This cigarette tax is the easiest way we saw” to increase funding.
Hahn suggested it would benefit the aims of the council to reach out to political leaders and include them as members.
“That will help us get a leg up on where we need to be,” he said. “If more people can get involved and we can push that legislation, we can be in great shape,” he said.
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