SA battles city over 3B tax

Ellen Nelson

Ellen NelsonNews Editor

Students’ Association takes a stance and presents a petition for $15,000 in tax funds the City of Brookings agreed to impose on SDSU students and staff who use Aramark’s dining services.

A petition against the Brookings City Council was brought forth by the Students’ Association through a resolution which calls to approve $15,000 of funding to be provided for SDSU.

“We’re trying to give the funds back to the students where they belong,” SA President Brett Monson said.

Recently the City of Brookings has increased its imposed and optional third penny tax of on-campus, prepared food provided by Aramark, the private vendor for SDSU’s dining services.

The City of Brookings has the power to impose this third penny tax, which is different and does not account for the already existing state tax of South Dakota, which is 4 percent. Commonly the third penny tax is referred to 3B tax and is imposed on leisurely promotional expenditures such as liquor, concert tickets, hotel amenities and prepared meals in restaurants.

Reasons for cities to impose such a tax include using the tax revenues to sponsor events that bring people to the community in order to strengthen the local economy.

“[The third penny tax fund] really helps promote the city,” said Rita Thompson, Brookings finance manager.

Thompson said past examples and benefits of what 3B taxes go toward include events at the Swiftel Center, the Welcome Back Bash and the annual Brookings Summer Arts Festival. Increased tourism and a larger population resulted because of the these events ultimately support the city’s local economy.

SDSU’s University Program Council has also utilized 3B taxes in order to promote their events. The Augustana concert hosted on campus two years ago was funded in part by 3B taxes, said Catherine Bigbee, UPC adviser.

“We always encourage our program coordinators to utilize alternative funding (such as third penny tax funds),” Bigbee said.

Although educational institutions and universities are tax-exempt and receive funding privately or through property taxes, SDSU’s on-campus dining vendor Aramark can have a tax imposed on them since it is a private industry.

Brookings imposing the third penny tax is not the issue, Monson said. He said the underlying issue is the city has gone against what they had agreed to impose on the dining services provided at SDSU, specifically on its prepared meals. The tax is ultimately charging students more than what was agreed to.

“We’re making sure the funds that students deserve are actually there,” Monson said.

Five years ago, the amount of third penny tax imposed on Aramark was set based on a $5 to $5.5 million average expense that students were paying for yearly meal plans on campus. At that time, the agreed 3B tax to be imposed on Aramark was $35,000, annually. Now, Aramark is paying more than what was agreed upon. Annually, Aramark is paying at least $50,000 of 3B tax due to increase of enrollment and an increase of food prices.

Although SA is petitioning the city, some say there is not much change that can or will be seen this year.

“The 2011 budget is set,” Thompson said. “The only way for a petition requesting more money than what the budget allows for the year requires a first and second ordinance, accompanied with a city council vote,”

If the $15,000 is presented to SA by the city, Monson said SA will discuss investing the money towards communication tools or mechanisms for students around campus, such as electronic message boards to display upcoming events. Another possibility the $15,000 may go toward is an end-of-the-year event coordinated with the help of UPC, Monson said.

The petition will be presented on Oct. 26 at 6 p.m. at Brookings City Hall in the council chambers, and all support for SDSU is welcome.

“We’re really looking for a lot of people to show up and support what we’re trying to do,” said Logan DeBoer, sponsor of the resolution and member of SA.

#1.1717783:3360670792.png:Union-Food-Pic-Ryan-Robinson.png:Aramark, a national private food vendor that SDSU utilizes, has been charged an increase in a 3B tax by the City of Brookings. SA is petitioning that a portion of the 3B funds go back to SDSU students.:Collegian Photo by Ryan Robinson