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 Post subject: Lehigh Gorge Scenic RR & Jim Thorpe At Odds Over Tax--AGAIN
PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2020 2:02 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
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Location: Somewhere east of Prescott, AZ along the old Santa Fe "Prescott & Eastern"
https://www.wfmz.com/news/area/poconos- ... 1ece2.html

Quote:
JIM THORPE, Pa. - The deal between Jim Thorpe and the popular Lehigh Scenic Gorge Railway attraction is reportedly going off the rails.

The Times-News has cited a release from Jim Thorpe Borough stating the railway no longer accepts a proposed ordinance to resolve a tax dispute.
Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway to close in late November after tax dispute

In the fall, the railway ended rides in response to an ongoing dispute over the borough's amusement tax.

They resumed in February after the two struck a deal.

But now, the borough says the railway has issues with the deal and is planning to end the rides again.


Video report at top link.

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viewtopic.php?f=1&t=43826


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 Post subject: Re: Lehigh Gorge Scenic RR & Jim Thorpe At Odds Over Tax--AG
PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2020 2:15 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 22, 2017 6:47 pm
Posts: 398
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Here's the press release from the Borough of Jim Thorpe:

https://www.jtborough.org/sites/jimthor ... ailway.pdf

At this writing, RBMN/LGSRy have not commented.

Phil Mulligan


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 Post subject: Re: Lehigh Gorge Scenic RR & Jim Thorpe At Odds Over Tax--AG
PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2020 5:01 pm 

Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2017 5:54 pm
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They did now:
https://www.rbmnrr.com/happenings/2020/5/4/rbmn-update-regarding-passenger-trains-tofrom-jim-thorpe


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 Post subject: Re: Lehigh Gorge Scenic RR & Jim Thorpe At Odds Over Tax--AG
PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2020 8:54 pm 

Joined: Fri Oct 01, 2004 1:33 pm
Posts: 424
Location: Oroville, CA
Sadly, this appears to be a "He said. . . She said. . . ." with a complete lack of active communications between the two parties. It also appears that city's attorney thinks he holds the trump card, and the railroad knows it owns the ball.
I don't know about back there, but out here in California, many folks believe that city attorneys get that job because they need a job. I'll let you read into that what you may.
I hope calmer heads can prevail here, maybe the good folks or the business folks of Jim Thorpe can wack their council members up the side of their heads to get their thinking straight. From way out here it seems obvious that the railroad provides quite a bit of income to the community through the outsiders it attracts.
Harvest them tourists folks, it's a renewable crop that thrives on fertilizer! (also known as Bull-S***). "Tourists, hate 'em, but love 'em, Bless their hearts (and their wallets)."
:)

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David Dewey
Hoping for the return to the American Rivers of the last overnight steamboat, Delta Queen!


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 Post subject: Re: Lehigh Gorge Scenic RR & Jim Thorpe At Odds Over Tax--AG
PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2020 9:37 pm 

Joined: Thu May 24, 2012 1:37 pm
Posts: 1290
As of 8:00pm May 4th, the Jim Thorpe amusement-tax ordinance on eCode360 is unchanged in any respect exempting a railroad, whether tourist or otherwise, from the amusement tax. That makes the borough either mendacious or extremely slipshod in required compliance.
In any case, the necessary changes to the ordinance are simple: language similar to that in other Pennsylvania jurisdictions in the 396-58 definitions-section 'Amusements' to exclude a federally-regulated railroad from amusement status; and language under 396-60 'Exemptions' stating that no operation over a federally-regulated railroad can or will be taxed.

What the railroad wants are not amenable to being stated in ordinances; they would be the subject of agreements contracted between the railroad and the Borough of Jim Thorpe (not the current council) which (1) state the municipality will never reopen the back-tax case (or stipulated penalties for breach would apply) and (2) state that the borough will never seek to tax the railroad's passenger operations or attempt to amend any ordinance to implement such taxation (again, with stipulated penalties, which can be ongoing each day such tax or ordinance is in effect). I'm sure Andy Muller & co. know this stuff in their sleep, so I'm inclined to think the Borough is trying to play this with the local voters.

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 Post subject: Re: Lehigh Gorge Scenic RR & Jim Thorpe At Odds Over Tax--AG
PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2020 9:52 am 

Joined: Thu May 24, 2012 1:37 pm
Posts: 1290
Keep in mind that the legal basis of the railroad being exempted from the amusement tax (either to the Borough as a whole or to the school district involved) may be governed in no small part by the decision in 49 Pa. D & C 3rd 639 (1988):

https://www.leagle.com/decision/198868849padampc3d6391602

This again notes that the 'amusement tax' is intended to be assessed not on the railroad but on patrons for 'the privilege of boarding in Jim Thorpe'; the railroad is only an agent in collecting and forwarding the passengers' individual tax amounts to the Borough; and that issues of government regulation over the actual train ride itself are irrelevant to the local tax as intended.

This also adds the further detail that wherever Jim Thorpe might move its 'boarding point' there will be an established school district probably intent on any potential source of new 'free' revenue -- it's for the children!

My opinion is that most of these 'amusement' ordinances are intended to secure an additional pound of flesh from businesses that can't operate to make money without a fixed base in town, and will make no profit if not fully 'allowed' to do business. The difference in this case is that Andy can, and has, and now will again, take his little toys out of Jim Thorpe entirely ... but still be able to run some sort of Gorge excursion, even if boarding takes place far away and passengers stay on the train unless whatever municipality controls the 'destination end' agrees to waive any and all fees. So it's highly in Jim Thorpe's interest to contract with RBMN or whatever entity is involved to (1) amend the ordinance as they claim they have, with the understanding, tacit or explicit, that RBMN will withdraw the rides if the tax is in future reapplied to them; (2) that the Borough will not proceed with any further assessment or collection of the supposed tax with fixed and assessable penalties should the Borough in future breach that agreement -- these penalties made so onerous that no future Council would consider opportunism or 'future revenge' for something they perceive RBMN may have done. And perhaps (3), a similar agreement that states not that the Borough's hands are tied ever assessing amusement or similar tax via ordinance on the Railroad again, but that should they do so further penalties would apply (again, in equal or greater measure to any financial inconvenience the railroad might suffer in collecting and disbursing a personal patron tax).

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 Post subject: Re: Lehigh Gorge Scenic RR & Jim Thorpe At Odds Over Tax--AG
PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2020 10:27 am 

Joined: Thu Feb 26, 2009 3:07 pm
Posts: 602
Location: B'more Maryland
This is all incredibly stupid.

The LGSR would not be as successful as it has been without boarding being in a place that also supports other "daytrip" activities (I personally know of at least four tickets that wouldn't have been purchased if there wasn't other stuff to do nearby).

Likewise, Jim Thorpe and its other merchants would have a whole lot fewer customers if the train wasn't there.

Both parties need to get over themselves here and figure this out instead of continuing the current pissing match.


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 Post subject: Re: Lehigh Gorge Scenic RR & Jim Thorpe At Odds Over Tax--AG
PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2020 11:25 am 

Joined: Wed Feb 16, 2005 11:17 pm
Posts: 272
Location: Houston, TX
Maybe the railroad needs to put up a sign and an additional collection point where once you purchase your ticket, you go the additional collection point and pay the "amusement tax" separately, so that it is not hidden in the ticket price. The ordinance does not say how the tax is to be collected.

I find that when many people find out the extent of the hidden taxes that we pay, they get quite upset about the whole thing.

If in this case, for every tax that is levied on the scenic trains operations the patrons had to stand in line to pay it separately, and ultimately realized just how much was being raked off by the governments, local county, school board, and state, that there would be some sort of negative reaction.

After all, the railroad has to bear the burden of sorting these taxes all out and paying them on the behalf of the consumer, so why not let the consumer know exactly how much tax he is really paying.

I recognize that this is not a practical solution, but to print the amount of each tax on the back of the ticket is.

No government agency likes to see things like this in black and white and the public does not like to see how much the governments rake off really is.


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 Post subject: Re: Lehigh Gorge Scenic RR & Jim Thorpe At Odds Over Tax--AG
PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2020 11:27 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 9592
Location: Somewhere east of Prescott, AZ along the old Santa Fe "Prescott & Eastern"
Look, even as a card-carrying Libertarian, I may support the concept of such a tax as facilitating the ability of the town to do what it does with regard to tourist services, offering parking, paving streets, etc.

But when I've seen other disputes like this, the dispute boils down to two factors: disproportionate taxation of one party versus the others, or setting a "dangerous" precedent.

Either one or two groups or categories are somehow being disproportionately overtaxed (or double/triple taxed--the old "we're a railroad/bus line/restaurant, not entertainment" argument), or it's considered very, very likely (by experience with the politicians involved) that what starts out as a 1% tax one year becomes a 2% tax next year, then 3%, 5%, and onwards and upwards. Places that start such taxation usually get as addicted to the revenue involved as a junkie does to heroin, and end up seldom placated with what they get from the first tax.

The issue that lost the town a lot of sympathy the first time around was their attempt at retroactive tax assessment.


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 Post subject: Re: Lehigh Gorge Scenic RR & Jim Thorpe At Odds Over Tax--AG
PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2020 11:34 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 9592
Location: Somewhere east of Prescott, AZ along the old Santa Fe "Prescott & Eastern"
elueck wrote:
Maybe the railroad needs to put up a sign and an additional collection point where once you purchase your ticket, you go the additional collection point and pay the "amusement tax" separately, so that it is not hidden in the ticket price. The ordinance does not say how the tax is to be collected.


There have been instances out there where such separate itemization of special taxes has been explicitly prohibited by the jurisdictions involved, specifically to prevent that counter-attack strategy. I know of 1-2 that went to court challenges and were eventually shot down.

And as smart as it may sound in general, it becomes a bit self-defeating when the line to get $35 tickets becomes a line for $37.71 (or whatever) tickets, and the transactions are delayed by change-making (though in the days of credit cards, who cares anymore?).


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 Post subject: Re: Lehigh Gorge Scenic RR & Jim Thorpe At Odds Over Tax--AG
PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2020 11:53 am 

Joined: Sat Nov 28, 2015 7:28 pm
Posts: 470
Location: Northern WV
"No good deed goes unpunished". The Lehigh Gorge excursions are not mandated as passenger trains were in the 1950s. The excursions are a "gift" to communities along their railroad. Andy is the head of a regional railroad and also happens to be a railfan. I doubt if the Reading & Blue Mountain actually makes a profit from their excursions. Andy doesn't NEED Jim Thorpe to run the Lehigh Gorge train. Nesquehoning is about 4 1/2 miles away from Jim Thorpe and, I bet, would be happy to host excursions (and also not charge exorbitant parking fees). If the Lehigh Gorge Scenic riders wanted to experience Jim Thorpe in addition to their ride, it would only be about a 10 minute drive from Nesquehoning.

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 Post subject: Re: Lehigh Gorge Scenic RR & Jim Thorpe At Odds Over Tax--AG
PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2020 1:33 pm 

Joined: Thu Feb 26, 2009 3:07 pm
Posts: 602
Location: B'more Maryland
WVNorthern wrote:
"No good deed goes unpunished". The Lehigh Gorge excursions are not mandated as passenger trains were in the 1950s. The excursions are a "gift" to communities along their railroad. Andy is the head of a regional railroad and also happens to be a railfan. I doubt if the Reading & Blue Mountain actually makes a profit from their excursions. Andy doesn't NEED Jim Thorpe to run the Lehigh Gorge train. Nesquehoning is about 4 1/2 miles away from Jim Thorpe and, I bet, would be happy to host excursions (and also not charge exorbitant parking fees). If the Lehigh Gorge Scenic riders wanted to experience Jim Thorpe in addition to their ride, it would only be about a 10 minute drive from Nesquehoning.


"Lets go spend a day in Nesquehoning" said no family or empty nester. Ever.

This is a symbiotic relationship, and having the two parties snipping at each other is a lose-lose situation that seems, from the outside, like a case of pettiness on both sides.


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