Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Room Tax Purgatory

A couple things - first of all is knowitalls comment yesterday about me not 'listening" to his comment a year ago about LastPass.  He is correct - I did not "listen" to his comments.  Perhaps I need to install that software into blogger.  However - I do "read" his comments and typically it's just blah blah blah so perhaps I missed it.  I don't remember him saying anything about LastPass, perhaps he can go back and look for that comment.

Second - It's our City Administrators birthday and we have a special treat for him today.  At some point when he least suspects it Kelly will sneak up behind him and do the ice-bucket challenge on him.  It'll be a riot.  DON'T LOOK BEHIND YOU PATRICK.

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Room Tax Purgatory

Hotels and motels in Wisconsin have a room tax.  In Columbus it's 3% (can be up to 8%) and it's purpose is to "generate a separate source of revenue from overnight travelers to help offset the costs of marketing, service and development to continually attract overnight travelers to the area. This “perpetual funding” model, when used properly, continually attracts overnight visitors to spend money in Columbus, generating more room tax revenue".

In Columbus it's about $20,000 and most of this money is used to help fund events in Columbus which in turn, theoretically, brings people to Columbus or at least makes people spend more money IN Columbus.

State law says that at least 70% must be used in advertising of the events with the other 30% used at the city's desecration.

Here is the problem which has reared it's head. Before last night a few people on a tiny committee would get together before council and decide on requests and Council would rubber stamp their request.   Quick, easy and not a problem and I knew of know one except the Mayor who had issues with this. Seemed to work great.

However the Mayor wanted to create a Commission of citizens who would have total 100% control over the funds and Council would not have to even touch or worry about where the money was spent, out of our hands completely. The idea was to stop giving ANY money to events and all in marketing (or 70% at least).  The problem some of us felt was that we were giving away $20,000 of Columbus money and losing all control of where it was going.  If the Commission wanted to spend $20,000 on a big sign that said "Come to Columbus, We're Old and Historic, We Never Change", so be it.

WELL, I personally thought we were trying to fix something that was not a problem to begin with and for the last 2+ months every session this was on the agenda and we would have to talk about it and debate it and it would take up our time.

I assumed the Mayor has six people lined up for this already and finally we got to a point where the City Attorney, in his 3rd of 4th iteration to an ordinance had something workable even though I believe most on the Council liked the old way but this assumed "problem" was just not going away.

So to make the Mayor happy we first had to demolish the old committee so we could form a new committee (which no one really wanted a new committee in the first place).  So we voted and now there is NO committee and Council is the new Committee (like we had all this extra time).

SO - hopefully Kelly can call in his people who wanted to be on the committee.  I think the only difference is that instead of a commission which had total control, this is a committee who will need to get their plans rubber stamped by council.

I believe the problem is that the Mayor did not want ANY origination to get room tax money and all would to towards marketing.

The problem is that if we do not help events like The Carriage Festival, OddFellows Oddtoberfest, Arts & Ales, The Xplosion,  The 175th City of Columbus Birthday Party,  The Renegades Rumble what is the reason for people to come to Columbus?  What are we marketing??

Our vibrant downtown?  The strip malls? ShopKo?

I hear a lot of people saying Columbus has so much going for us!  YEA, we do, in theory,  but we don't have a lake for tourists, we have a underutilized river, we have a fantastic looking downtown with closed antique stores so people can look in the windows for nothing better to do.

Columbus has to manufacture our tourism, we can not ignore what brings people to our community.

SO with that said - if you want to help spend $20,000 and meet once a month the Columbus Tourism Committee needs you!  Contact the City Clerk (920-623-5900) for a form.
        
And while you are at it the CDA needs a body or two also.

For the first time in over a year I'm excited about the direction the CDA is going (we actually have the beginnings of a direction).  If you want to help Columbus become a vibrant community WE NEED YOU!  Get off your butt and meet once a month.  Hey - I spent years whining about how everyone complains but no one does anything.  I stepped up, how bout' some more people doing that!