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Theater's troubles could mean tax hike

Posted June 3, 2008
Updated June 4, 2008

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— The troubled theater project meant to boost the city of Roanoke Rapids' struggling economy could end up costing taxpayers.

Tuesday evening, city leaders considered but didn't reach a decision concerning a 3-cent increase to the property tax rate to help make up for the loss of money from The Roanoke Rapids Theatre.

City Manager Phyllis Lee said since the facility opened, the city has spent about $739,000 more than it has brought in.

The city has already taken measures to help offset the theater's costs, such as putting a hiring freeze on most employment positions and delaying purchases and initiatives, Lee said.

But the city's fund balance is close to dropping below the required state minimum, she said.

"The city's not currently in trouble, but if you don't watch your finances, you could easily get to the point where you have issues," Lee said.

Under the proposed increase, taxes on the average Roanoke Rapids home – which run anywhere from $120,000 to $150,000 – would increase between $36 and $45. The increase would be for one year and would be re-evaluated next year.

"It's disgusting," said Cathy Maurice, who has run a floral shop in the city for more than a decade. "It's so hard for the small business, as it is."

Others say they understand the need for an increase.

"I'm not for taxes being raised," homeowner Andrea Schmaltz. "But we are in support of the theater."

Part of the city's loss comes from a $547,000 buyout of country music entertainer Randy Parton's contract. The theater's former namesake was hired in 2005 to help jump-start the $21.5 million, 1,500-seat entertainment complex along Interstate 95.

Lower-than-projected attendance and revenue, as well as other controversy, ultimately led to the city's ending its relationship with Parton.

The management company brought in after Parton also terminated its contract with the city in February, claiming the city owed the firm more than $100,000.

Last month, city officials announced Gilmore Entertainment of Myrtle Beach, S.C., would run the theater and produce its shows.

The agreement, as stated in a letter of intent, would have the city paying Gilmore $500,000.

Separate from that agreement, the developers of the land in which the theater sits, Carolina Crossroads, have agreed to pay half of that for the first two years.

The city has yet to sign a contract with Gilmore.

35 Comments

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  • Tolip Jun 4, 2008

    OH MY! Who would have thunk it? That wonderful place, sitting our there in the middle of no where? Why folks should be standing in line to get in there!
    Had enough yet Noth Calina? Time to vote them all out. Remove them from the teat of the PUBLIC MONEY HOG!!

  • CrewMax Jun 4, 2008

    They ought to give Roanoke Rapids back to the Indians and let them
    turn the theatre into a gambling joint. Pass liquor by the drink,
    and they would have a hit on their hands.

  • Rolling Along Jun 4, 2008

    Hopefully a citizen's advocacy group can file a lawsuit to stop the tax increase, but I wouldn't bet on it. Shades of the "bubba dome" in Cumberland County.

  • teacher-mom Jun 3, 2008

    They need to let the people who came up with this brilliant idea pay the deficit. They did not let the general public know the details; let them pay for it. I would refuse to pay for this.

  • bnorris6 Jun 3, 2008

    If something is not making money then cease operations and try to sell the property, you don't keep throwing good money after bad at the taxpayer's expense.

  • denverbob234 Jun 3, 2008

    When I first heard about this "theatre idea", the other posters on this site said I was wrong when I said it would be a huge flop. Who's laughing now???? LOL

  • Kaysie Jun 3, 2008

    Re: these people SHOULD be paying more for allowing some of the dumbest "so called" leaders in this state to build a nice complex and put its success on the shoulders of a NO BODY!!!! D U M B!!!!

    To bs101fly: You obviously don't know the history - it's not something that RR citizens had nothing to do with the decisions - they were made in closed sessions. It's a travesty - RR employees are really getting the shaft - even public safety employees.

  • FloydTurbo Jun 3, 2008

    Notice how we keep alternating Randy Parton and Mike Nifong updates ......

    They are both like "herpes". No cure, just reoccuring outbreaks until eternity .........

  • Titus Pullo Jun 3, 2008

    Drop your pants and bend over, here comes the Government!

  • fkhaywood Jun 3, 2008

    If it is like most small towns, the 'city leaders' don't have avery large salary. If you paid them "0", it wouln't make much difference in the debt to buitd the theater. You get what you pay for.

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