City deliberates increase in hotel tax
By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD — At its Sept. 13 meeting, the Marshfield Common Council discussed a proposed amendment to Ordinance No. 1308, which would provide for an increase in hotel room tax from 6 percent to 8 percent within the city of Marshfield.
“Most communities in our area have an 8 percent room tax, which would include Wausau, Stevens Point, and Wisconsin Rapids,” said City Administrator Steve Barg. “The city of Marshfield has been at 6 percent for some time, and the state law would allow us to go higher.
“As I understand, there is no objection from the lodging owners, and they are supportive as long as the monies are used for promotion and tourism, to bring more people to the community, presumably bringing more room stays to the hotel and lodging facilities.”
“I have a number of reasons for opposing (this),” said Alderman Ed Wagner. “The first one is I do not consider every other community is doing this as a compelling reason to raise tax, and it matters nothing to me that this tax isn’t on Marshfield citizens but people that visit from out of town.
“The second reason that I am opposing this is during this whole process, the (Marshfield) Convention and Visitors Bureau has come before us, and they have never pleaded the case to us that there is an absolute compelling need for this, nor have they given us a plan to show us what they want to spend the money for. … That troubles me.”
“A 2 percent room tax increase would generate approximately $100,000 in revenue,” said Matt McLean, Marshfield Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) director, in a post-meeting interview. “Based on Wisconsin State Statute 66.0615, 70 percent would go to tourism funding, and 30 percent would go to the city. The Marshfield CVB would utilize this additional funding of approximately $70,000 per year to increase marketing and development of Marshfield as a leisure, sports, and meeting-convention destination.”
“The tax will be paid by visitors staying in Marshfield hotels and will not be an advertised cost,” said McLean. “Hotels advertise their room rates not including tax. The average room rate in Marshfield over the last year is advertised at $87.15, referenced via Smith Travel Research, so a total of $97.17 is on the bill as the guest checks out, including all taxes of 11.5 percent. (If the room tax is raised, it) would be an average of $98.92, so an increase of only $1.75.
“Marshfield CVB will utilize new funding in conjunction with current resources to increase work with local sports organizations and Marshfield Parks & Recreation to increase sports development and the amount and size of sporting tournaments in Marshfield, such as success with Small Town Baseball, Marshfield Youth Hockey, and Great North West Basketball League that bring thousands of visitors to Marshfield and capturing future events such as American Legion Baseball 2016-2017 tournaments and 2016-2017 Cornhole State Championships.”
McLean noted that the additional funds would also be put towards marketing Marshfield’s established festivals, such as Dairyfest, Hub City Days, etc.; the Farm Technology Days that will be held in Wood County in 2018; and Wildwood Park & Zoo and the J.P. Adler Family Kodiak Bear Exhibit.
Requests for comment from several lodging establishments were declined. However, hotel managers plan to attend the Sept. 27 Marshfield Common Council meeting where the ordinance will be read again and possibly adopted.