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Should hotel room tax funds be used to offset Oktoberfest costs?

LA CROSSE, Wis. - The La Crosse City Council is debating whether to use some of the money from the city's hotel room tax to offset costs for Oktoberfest, but not everyone is on board with the idea.

"That could definitely be a savior for us," said Tina Severson, executive director of Oktoberfest.

The sights and sounds of this year's Oktoberfest are still about five months away, but Severson said this year's budget it looking bleak.

"We're actually losing almost the same amount as the fees, which is $25,000 at this point," said Severson.

Fees are paid to the city's Public Work's Department for cleanup and parade route barricades.

Fees are also paid to the city's Police Department for providing safety during the fest.


Oktoberfest has been operating at a loss for the past three years.

The fest has continued to cut back in order to make up for the loss, and additional funds from the city's room tax could help the tradition going.

"Those parades are always on the radar as far as how much longer can we continue to afford an event that operates at a loss," said Severson.

"We make thousands of dollars in contributions to Oktoberfest to help support their efforts," said Dave Clements, executive director of the La Crosse Conventions and Visitor's Bureau.

The funds from the city's room tax also account for the majority of the city's Conventions and Visitors Bureau's budget.

The money is used for things including marketing, promotions, and supporting events such as Oktoberfest.

If some of the funds from the room tax are used to help the fest, Clements is concerned it might start a chain reaction.

"What do we tell the people from state track meet?" Clements asked. "What do we tell the folks from Riverfest? What do we tell the folks from the Organic Farming Conference and all the other events, many of which we support through the Conventions and Visitors Bureau?"

Oktoberfest's fees from the Police Department total around $10,000.

Fees from the Public Works Department are finalized after the fest but could be as much as $14,000 this year.

Oktoberfest can offset some of that cost by providing volunteers to help the city.

No decision will be made in time for this year's fest.

The city's budget committee will pick up the room tax debate when they discuss the 2014 budget.

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