City of La Crosse asking for bigger portion of room tax money

Mayor proposes increasing city's portion of room tax from 2% to 30%

The city of La Crosse is considering a change to the way it spends some of the money it gets from tourists.

Right now, only about 1.5% to 2% of the money made from the city’s hotel room tax goes to the city’s general fund, with the remaining money going to the La Crosse Center (54%) and the La Crosse Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (44%). Mayor Tim Kabat is proposing increasing the city’s share of that pie to 30%, with the shares for the La Crosse Center and Convention & Visitors Bureau dropping to 35% each.

The mayor says the change will bring La Crosse in line with what other cities across the state are doing with their room tax money and will allow them to offset the extra costs it takes to organize events like Oktoberfest, which draws tourists from across the country.

While the percentages are going down for the La Crosse Center and Convention & Visitors Bureau, the mayor says they actually stand to gain money, due to the rising number of hotel rooms in the city.

“The percentages, I know people are kind of getting focused on,” said Mayor Kabat. “But ultimately, the dollar amounts are what matters, and the dollars going to the La Crosse Center are going to go up, the dollars to the (Convention & Visitors Bureau) are going to go up, and I think ultimately that’s going to lead for much more effective marketing of this region.”

The city says about $1.6 million was generated through the room tax last year, and they project that to increase to about $2.1 million next year. By 2017, when all of the city’s new hotels are open for a full year, the city is projecting $2.4 million gained through the room tax.

“I think overall it’s a positive for all the entities, but I can understand that there’s some concerns expressed because the percentage change for some of those entities is going to go down,” said Mayor Kabat.

Since the city is prevented by state law from making the changes itself, the City Council will hold a vote on Thursday to give that power to the Room Tax Commission, who then could decide to make the mayor’s changes.