Village Board resolution says state changes would restrict funding source
Over the years, the Village of Saukville has relied on room tax money to support a wide variety of community programs that often fall outside the municipal budget.
To avoid losing that financial flexibility, the Village Board unanimously approved a resolution last week that opposes two pieces of pending legislation.
The resolution states the board “strongly opposes” changes to the state room tax law outlined in Assembly Bill 385 and Senate Bill 301.
The bills would take much of the control over room tax revenue out of the hands of elected officials, giving the authority to independent tourism groups.
The bills also specify that municipalities retain no more than 30% of the proceeds collected from local lodging facilities.
The village resolution says that restriction “would remove vital funding for the community events, parks and public spaces that host tourist-generating events as well as the community arts, entertainment and civic groups that most often organize and host them.”
The village’s room tax dates back to 1994, assessing a 7% tax on guests who stay at the Super 8 motel, the community’s only lodging option.
According to the ordinance that created that tax, the proceeds are to be used to provide tax relief and promote local tourism.
Annually, the village room tax has provided funding to the Saukville Area Historical Society, Saukville Chamber of Commerce and the Ozaukee Tourism Council. Supported events include the 4th of July celebration, National Night Out, Live at the Triangle concert series, Saukville Fire Department Car Show and the Ozaukee County 911 memorial observance.
“Adoption (of the bills) would cause a reduction of $17,650 in funding for these programs,” the resolution contends.
In years past, the tax has generated as much as $65,000 in revenue. With recent drops in room usage, that pool of available money has dropped considerably — to less than $35,000 last year.
The two bills have broad support in the tourism industry, including the Association of Wisconsin Tourism Attractions, Wisconsin Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus and Wisconsin Hotel and Lodging Association.
According to the state Department of Revenue, 268 municipalities assess room taxes. In 2011, the communities collected more than $59 million through the charge.
Proponents of the bills contend they would increase accountability, by requiring that distribution of funds — by a municipality or tourism commission — be reported annually to the state.
The bills are opposed by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities.