City raises hotel room tax
By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD — During the Sept. 27 Common Council meeting, city leaders approved increasing Marshfield’s hotel room tax from 6 percent to 8 percent.
City leaders have been deliberating over the raise since May 2015. The hotel room tax had not been increased since 1999.
The council’s decision came following discussion on the funds to be generated by the raise and their use in the community.
“It’s a formula basically,” explained City Administrator Steve Barg. “As of Jan. 1, 2017, you will be able to keep 30 percent of the total amount raised through room tax revenues or the amount you got in 2014.
“As you look at Jan. 1, 2018, it’ll be 30 percent of the total or what you got in 2013. They’re just going to backpedal that. It is always whichever is greater.
“We hope that the total revenues are going to increase as room rental fees go up, and, hopefully, vacancy rates go down.”
Barg added, “State law does not require that our portion go to our tourism-related activities, but we’ve historically spent it on parks and trails and the zoo, things that bring people to town and engage them in tourism-type activities.”
Alderman Gordon Earll then asked the question, “If we didn’t have that money, we would have to fund that (30 percent) perhaps through taxes in order to continue giving it to Parks and Rec for that use?”
“That is true. Otherwise, the money would have to be levied for things like maintaining the trails, maintaining the parks, upgrades to the zoo, and those types of things,” said Barg. “We’d have to find the money outside of room tax, which would most likely be levied monies.”
Alderman Jason Zaleski discussed staying competitive with other cities that have already made the jump to an 8 percent hotel tax.
“We are in direct competition with the other cities in our region,” said Zaleski. “We are at a disadvantage with natural resources in a lot of ways in those cities that we are in competition with. Those places have lakes, rivers, ski hills, and a higher room tax rate.
“We may have a separate discussion on what the money should go for, but we certainly need to stay in competition, and one way we can do that is by increasing that room tax. When we are looking to capture those same tourism dollars, when we are looking to attract new residents, it does take money. It does take advertising to make those things happen.”
The increase was approved in a 7-3 vote with alderpersons Ed Wagner, Tom Witzel, and Peter Hendler voting no.
The increase will go into effect Jan. 1, 2017.