Opposing Ticket Tax, Music Center Says Levy Would "Divert Funds From Our Mission"
by Connie Sartini
Following a decision by Groton Select Board at their February 4 meeting to prepare an article for the Spring Town Meeting Warrant asking voters to impose a ticket tax on large events with paid performers, the Board received a letter from Indian Hill Music Chairman of the Board of Directors Peter Ashton and Chief Executive Officer Lisa Fiorentino urging the Board “not to proceed with the ticket tax proposal”, citing that it is “an unfair imposition on an education-focused arts and culture non-profit that will do more harm than good.”
Town Manager Mark Haddad said that the definition of ‘event’ from the Board was that of a paid performance for an audience of 200 or more. In the discussion, another option was suggested that the town could set a permit fee for events, with a provision that the Select Board could issue an exemption. Without a permit, there cannot be an event.
Select Board member Becky Pine pointed out that the originator of the ticket tax proposal was not present to share these ideas and suggested that the place-holder stay on the warrant.
The text of the Indian Hill Music letter to the Select Board follows:
“Dear Members of the Select Board,
On behalf of the Board, staff, faculty, and musicians of Indian Hill Music, we want to convey how excited we are to be building the new Music Center at Indian Hill in the Town of Groton. As you may know, the idea for Indian Hill Music was born in Groton more than 30 years ago and the organization has deep roots in the town. So when we were presented with the incredible opportunity to build a new, world-class facility that we believe will transform the region and become a cultural destination, we were thrilled to find the appropriate site in Groton overlooking Indian Hill. The support we have received from members of the community regarding the music center has been most gratifying.
Therefore, we are disappointed that the Select Board is putting forward a proposal to impose a ticket tax on performances at venues in Groton - venues that are owned by non-profit organizations. Indian Hill Music is a non-profit educational arts and culture organization that provides life-long learning through music education and performance to children and adults from across our region, and brings the transformative power
of music to all in the community.
Non-profit organizations such as Indian Hill Music exist to carry out charitable missions and we rely on contributed revenue primarily from individuals and also from businesses, foundations, and government entities to support these missions. The driving force of non-profits is that we reinvest in the communities we serve. Indian Hill Music gives back in many ways, including:
• We offer scholarships to those in need and host an annual Performathon to raise critical funds to help support four scholarship and outreach programs
• Indian Hill Music provides music education at no charge to students in underserved, high-need communities like Fitchburg, Ayer, Shirley, Clinton, and Lawrence - students who would otherwise not have access to these opportunities.
• Our Threshold Singers provide, at no charge, compassion and comfort through the ancient tradition of singing at the bedsides of people who are ill, in hospice care, or at the end of life.
• Our monthly free Bach's Lunch concerts bring together seniors, individuals suffering from illness related to memory, and those living with disabilities, giving them the opportunity to experience the therapeutic power of music at a delicate time in their lives and in a welcoming environment outside of their place of residence.
Our charitable work is made possible by the donations we receive from our caring and committed community. While the proposed warrant states that a ticket tax would be borne by the end user, it is important to note that those end users, many of whom are Groton residents, are also Indian Hill Music donors who care deeply about our mission. A performance ticket tax imposed on our donors not only taxes the Groton community but also diverts funds from support of our mission, creating an unnecessary burden, as well as adding administrative costs, on an education-focused non-profit. Also note that comparisons to for-profit venues that lease land from towns, like concerts and other events that take place at Gillette Stadium, simply do not apply here. Furthermore, Indian Hill Music will be paying for police details and we are unaware of any cost to the town related to our performances.
We are committed to being good neighbors to Groton residents. When the Music Center at Indian Hill is completed, we know it will become an important focal point for arts and culture in this region and beyond, and will have a tremendously positive impact on economic development in Groton and other local communities. As you are aware, a pro bono study by the Center for Creative Community Development estimates that the Music Center at Indian Hill will generate nearly $21 million a year for the local economy and create almost 195 jobs in the region after our operations are in full swing.
We want to stress a point that is often lost in discussing this project. Yes, the Music Center will be world-class, architecturally beautiful, and stand in a striking natural setting, but the funds donated for that land purchase and construction are completely separate from the programming and operating costs of our organization. Indian Hill Music remains a non-profit organization facing the continual challenge of raising contributed revenue to support our operating budget and to carry out our charitable mission. Like other arts and culture non-profit organizations, we currently rely on contributed revenue for approximately half of our total operating budget and we do not expect this to change in the future.
Attempts to tax the very mission of a non-profit organization will produce a chilling effect on all nonprofit organizations in the region and across the Commonwealth. If a proposal like this were to be implemented, it would have troubling implications for all non-profit arts and culture organizations throughout the State and the message that the Town of Groton would be sending to the non-profit community as a whole would be concerning.
We urge you to not proceed with this ticket tax proposal. We are happy to continue to work with the town to build what we anticipate will be one of the most important music centers in New England and beyond, and to discuss the ways in which our project will benefit all in Groton. But this proposal is an unfair imposition on an education-focused arts and culture non-profit that will do more harm than good.
Chair, Board of Directors
Indian Hill Music
Chief Executive Officer
Indian Hill Music"