Ohio Renaissance Festival seeks to leave Harveysburg over ticket tax

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

Mayor: ‘It would be a catastrophic event for the village’

A proposed tax by the village of Harveysburg on tickets to the Ohio Renaissance Festival is causing festival owners to consider detaching the festival property from the village and merging into Massie Twp.

The festival owners posted a statement on its website stating they would be filing a complaint with Warren County to detach from the village because they feel Massie Twp. can provide better services than the village can; and the village is threatening to impose a targeted entertainment tax on tickets which the owners say could increase ticket prices by as much as $2.

In their statement, festival owners said “the property is far better aligned with the township for provided services than the village, who provides no services. Also, being part of Massie Township would allow us to continue to put the safety of our customers first and finally put in a turn lane into the park heading westbound on State Route 73 from I-71.”

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The festival owners’ statement said the threat to impose the entertainment tax “is not in the best interest of our customers, which is most important. The idea is very disappointing to us after many years of financial contributions and goodwill efforts to the community.”

Harveysburg Mayor Richard Verga said that village and festival officials have had one discussion and they have not been notified of any petitions to detach from the village. Harveysburg has a population of 600 residents that includes 398 registered voters, he said.

“We haven’t had any serious negotiations,” Verga said.

“If that (detachment) would happen, it would be a catastrophic event for the village,” he said. “We have no industrial or commercial base. We pretty much get by.”

Verga said the current agreement signed in the 1990s with previous owner Peter Carroll was a direct payment of $20,000 that would increase by $1,000 a year in lieu of a ticket tax. Verga said council has not come up with an amount for the tax which can be levied at up to 8% per ticket. He said the average ticket tax is about 3%.

The village, which does not have an income tax, relies on the festival payment, property taxes, and traffic fines for revenues. Verga said the police chief is the only full-time employee and all other employees, including police officers, are part-time employees. The mayor receives a small stipend but the other council members are not paid.

Festival owners encouraged people to send their feedback to village officials by attending council meetings at 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Mondays of the month; sending an email to village officials at info@villageofharveysburg.org; or joining their social media group.

“Please know that the property owners are diligent and passionate to fight for the best interest of the festival and all its customers,” the festival owners’ statement said. “We ask for patience as this plays out over the next few months. Regardless, we will still operate and offer a top-of-the-line show and experience for our customers.”

Dave Ashcraft, managing partner of the ownership group, said the petition for the detachment was filed in Warren County Common Pleas Court last Friday. He said the festival better “aligns” with Massie Twp. rather than the village.

“We’ve had a lot of informal talks with them and we understand their concerns,” Ashcraft said. “Harveysburg gets the money but provides no services while Massie Twp. provides services but does not receive the money. We support the police department and pay Harveysburg police to help with traffic.”

Ashcraft, whose team purchased the festival and property in 2015, said Ohio 73 is a busy highway and that the township can help with road services as well as the fire/EMS services they already provide.

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