How should room tax funds be distributed? Rhinelander mayor questions effectiveness of current process
The Rhinelander City Council is deciding whether to extend a contract with the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce for its room tax committee.
The Rhinelander Tourism and Marketing Committee determines how to spend money collected through a room tax on hotels and Airbnbs. It’s composed of the mayor, a current alderman, two people from the hospitality industry, a civilian and a chamber member.
State law dictates 70 percent of room tax funds be given to a tourism entity, like the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce, to be spent on tourism promotion and development.
The remaining 30 percent goes to the municipality to maintain things like infrastructure.
However, the city’s new mayor, Kris Hanus, questions whether the current room tax committee is operating in an effective, transparent way.
“I haven’t been in government before, so this is a brand new set of eyes,” he says. “Over the last five years, roughly $150,000 a year on average is given to the chamber and this room tax committee. Out of that, I would argue there’s more efficient ways and ways to make it more productive.”
The Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce has had discretion over the room tax for the past several decades.
Lauren Sackett, the executive director of the chamber, argues it’s been successful during this time.
“Tourism is increasing in our communities,” she says. “We are very much in tune with how the tourism industry works and trends and all of the market research.”
In 2021, visitors spent more than $254 million in the county. That’s up compared to $241 million in 2019.
The City of Rhinelander held a listening session last week about the room tax.
Hanus says the City Council will review details of the room tax committee’s proposed contract at its next meeting.