By JONAH LOSSIAH
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Tribal Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (TABCC) came to a work session on Tuesday, May 14 to address its current taxation rates.
Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed opened the meeting. He addressed that the current 30 percent tax levied by the TABCC was to be discussed, and not the 30 percent tax on liquor. The TABCC came into the discussion arguing to maintain this tax, and the Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise (TCGE) was hoping for a reduction of tax.
The center of controversy was a memo sent to the TCGE from Matt Armstrong, the Founder and CEO of Experientia Development Partners. Experientia has been tasked to head the retail for the new convention center project at the casino. The memo says that the there have been difficulties in signing businesses to leases for the new convention center. It was reported that there were a few businesses that did not want to sign due to the TABCC tax system, so the TCGE came to the meeting trying to find new ways to convince businesses to sign.
Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke argued on the side of the TABCC and thought that this work session was unnecessary.
“I don’t see why we’re even here. This is [the TABCC’s] decision, not this body’s. We set that board up to make these decisions in 2011,” said Saunooke.
Michael Gross was the primary speaker on behalf of the TABCC. He broke down what taking away the TABCC 30 percent tax could mean for the commission. He continued by listing what the tax pays for.
“The operation of the ABC Commission, it pays the salaries, overhead, rent for a warehouse, all of our liquor inventory purchases, Alcohol Law Enforcement salaries, benefits, holiday pay, it pays for the donations we pay to the kids and the students … and we hold some of that for capitol.”
Gross also said that the TABCC doesn’t have the base to operate without the tax, and that the Cherokee market can’t be compared to other neighboring regions. Other areas in North Carolina are established and have a huge amount to work with.
“Asheville’s ABC system probably has 350-400 permittees, we only have seven,” said Gross.
Chief Sneed came back to address a compromising approach. He suggested that the TABCC allow for tiered taxation method, with newer permitees given a reduction for the first few years. He said that could help drive in some of the bigger businesses that they were hoping to land, though he wasn’t clear of how his idea could work logistically. So, Council turned back to Gross for clarification.
“I certainly believe that’s something the TABCC can work with the Chief’s office on … as the number of permittees grow, the revenue will grow with them. In order to maintain the budget that we would need, we would be able to lower the tax rate,” said Gross.
Still, the worry was that the casino would not be getting the necessary tenants to progress. There was already a six-month extension, and now the hope is to have a presentation by September.
Scooter McCoy, a member of the TCGE Board, said that they are still waiting on a full report, but the plan revolves around landing a few major businesses on the food and beverage side.
“They call them anchors…you try to get three or four of the major anchors. When this restaurant commits, then it’s easier to get these two or three retail shops,” said McCoy.
The meeting finished on a positive note, with high hopes of solving something soon directly with the boards.
The idea of an increasing tiered system had support for several people in the room, but a final verdict could not be set. It was agreed that the TCGE, the TABCC, and the Principal Chief’s office would need call a meeting of their own to come to a final conclusion.