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Rhinelander Council Passes Budget In Relatively Quiet Session

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With limited comment and civil proceedings, the Rhinelander Common Council  passed a budget for 2020 but left open is an allocation for the room tax money collected by businesses and spent for community marketing.

The council approved a $6 million dollar tax levy, roughly the same as the 2019 figure. But there is a sticking point over how the room tax money is allocated in the budget. The budget finds $200,000 in city coffers. 

Chamber of Commerce Director Lauren Sackett told the council she didn't think that allocation was correct. She says from her reading the city can only keep 30 percent for itself...

"The other 70 percent is supposed to be forwarded to a room tax commission or a tourism entity. Right now, the Rhinelander Tourism and Marketing Committee(RTMC) is the only one in place that's the Commission and the Rhinelander Chamber is the only tourism entity in existence. From my deduction, 70 percent is supposed to be forwarded to RTMC or the Chamber which is the fiscal agent for the RTMC..."

City Attorney Steve Sorenson felt the city's action was legal as the city is the entity under statutes that collects the tax...

"What I did do was I did research on the allocations put forward in the budget and subject to policy decisions of this board, it is going to withstand legal scrutiny.."

Rather than leave it in a confrontational mode, the council agreed more discussions with the Chamber and other entities will happen.

The council also will be meeting next week to look at the Water and Wastewater budgets.

Little was said during the meeting about the incident last week at city hall where police investigators confiscated files to check on alleged activities by Administrator Daniel Guild. Alder Lee Emmer asked that the incident be put on an upcoming meeting for open discussion.

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