Hotel Tax Increase Should Boost Local Business, Officials Hope

The Port Washington Common Council approved an ordinance increasing the hotel/motel tax for the city in hopes of generating more money to use for marketing to tourists.

Officials unanimously approved an ordinance increasing Port Washington's hotel/motel tax on Tuesday night in hopes of bringing in an extra $30,000 to use for marketing of the city.

The increase moves the tax from 7 percent to 8 percent; the additional funds will go to the Port Washington Tourism department for use in promoting the city, with target markets stressed by council members including Iowa and Chicago.

 "My hope is … we can be creative with some of those different funding resources that (are) not currently available to us," Mlada said at an earlier meeting when the idea was introduced. "We need to utilize the people that have been coming to our city."

Tourists from these and other markets that visit Port Washington impact many individuals — including local business owners. Officials are hopeful the program will be succesful enough that the tax can be reduced again after some time.

"The extra one percent is supposed to produce a benefit to the city — which, if it does, there will be an increase of rooms rented and (more money)," Ald. Jim Vollmar said, adding that at that time the tax could drop because additional money would still be coming in from additional rooms.

Vollmar initially suggested the idea of putting a 3-year expiration date on the increase with this in mind, which other council members supported — but some worries about that idea arose.

City Administrator Mark Grams pointed out that it is possible the same aldmermen would not still sit on the board in three years, and, even if they did, remembering that this was set to expire could be tricky; if the council forgot, they could end up owing money back.

Instead, Grams suggested that the issue be looked at during the annual budget process, because it's always reviewed at that time of year anyway.

"For simplicity of this, I agree with Mark," Ald. Doug Biggs said. "While I appreciate the suggestion from Ald. Vollmar, I think its prudent for us to just maintain a vigil watch on it during budget time … not necessarily (add a sunset) which will force action."

robert utecht December 05, 2012 at 02:21 PM
Considering that there are two huge hotels in Grafton right off the freeway, and one in Saukville, 5 minutes away. . . What kind of idiots do they have running Port Washington?
Mike Baron December 05, 2012 at 02:26 PM
So.... Let's raise room rates make our rooms more expensive so people can stay here. Biggest oxymoron ever
Rik Kluessendorf December 05, 2012 at 02:29 PM
So the logic here, if I understand, is this: "Let's charge tourists more money so we can spend it on getting more tourists. And just to protect us from ourselves - heaven knows that a different board might see this as a really bad idea - let's make sure that this extra charge stays in place until we decide it doesn't have to." Because you know that government is so good about removing taxes. Would the board's time be better spent working on enhancing the city so that it is more attractive to tourists, not more expensive? The city government seems to have no problem preventing local draws from opening shop downtown - rumors frequently cite the city complicating the approval process for the likes of the Mine Shaft, Water Street Brewery, Buffalo Wild Wings, and other known draws to the point that those businesses didn't want to come here anymore. No, those businesses wouldn't have enhanced "tourism," they would have brought people in year-round from surrounding areas. Not that Deville's is going to be a draw of the same magnitude as any of the previously mentioned, but watch and see how the city meddles - this is exactly how Port Washington is unfriendly towards business. With respect to the hotel tax, I'm curious who will be most supportive of it - our two Port hotels or the three just outside of our city borders in Saukville and Grafton.
Greg Huegerich December 05, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Forcing a vote again in 3 years would've been a better idea. I don't mind a 1% tax hike for hotel visitors, however, governments have a nasty habit of forgetting why they originally created a tax increase, and at some point, they'll grab the 30k they were spending on advertising and use it for something else. Then, the cycle repeats itself, and it'll go to 9% so they can restart a new advertising campaign for the city. Politicians, particularly in conservative areas, tend to be cautious about voting for tax increases or keeping taxes high. Much like the State of WI's insane gas index process, which cause the gas tax to go up every year without a vote, there are better ways this could've been handled.
Rik Kluessendorf December 05, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Port has a number of city models it can follow. If Port wants to be the kind of city with a thriving downtown area, it should be very free with permits and licensing downtown: even a bad shop idea is better than an empty shop. If Port wants to be a city that keeps the tax base down for residents, it should grow and expand business in every area available - the I-43 corridor in the North, the Hwy 32 entrance to town from the South, the business parks, AND downtown (Grafton is a very good example of this). If Port wants to be a tourist destination, it should support draws for people that want to come to the city - entertainment venues, attractions or businesses with a known following, etc. The problem is that Port wants none of these things. It hides behind the idea of tourism as a way to ensure that all local businesses are locally owned, and the city will obstruct or prevent non-locals from getting their foot in the door unless the new business poses no possible threat to established, local businesses. The city is more concerned with individuals' successes and spheres than with quality of life and the interests of the city as a whole. This hotel tax is a shortsighted smokescreen to make it look like the city is doing something - again, forever chasing those "tourist dollars" (which, by the way, are only worth chasing about 3-4 months of the year) rather than addressing real solutions to a sleepy downtown.
Greg December 05, 2012 at 05:05 PM
The hotel tax concept induces a lot of thought, or it should. What exactly is the city promoting? Port is a nice city, but why would I travel here? How long would I want to stay? Am I on a budget, that would mean money paid in tax would not be paid to local businesses? Did the city seek other sources for this same revenue? Why Iowa? I don't think that a few dollars per night would prevent me from staying in a particular area, if I had a reason to be close. In the end I don't think the tax change is going to deter a large number of visitors, but at the same time I don't think that $30K is going to bring that many in.
Greg December 05, 2012 at 05:28 PM
A few details, that I think are correct (correct me if I'm wrong): -Hotel or room tax is in addition to State and County sales tax. 5.6% + 8% = 13.6% The room tax for a $70/night stay would be $5.60, total cost would be $79.52/night. -Hotel or room tax is capped by statute at 8%.
James Meyer December 05, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Greg, My comments are directed only to your comment that $30K isn't going to bring many people in. It's possible to target those tourists that are specifically looking for exactly what Port Washington offers. Port Washington could achieve huge amounts of targeted exposure. Online advertising such as Google, Facebook, etc., offer online analytics. Setting up a campaign to utilize the analytics along with a landing page and promotion code make it possible to see exactly the results are.
Ken December 05, 2012 at 06:14 PM
I think our leadership, including the mayor, are showing their liberal left-leaning tendencies. First the mayor suggested 'green' initiatives and now the council raising taxes to 'increase' business. How about this idea- eliminate the hotel tax altogether and Port will be known as the BEST place to stay with no hotel tax-
Rik Kluessendorf December 05, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Ken - just for clarifications, "green" does not mean liberal. The "green" movement is, of itself, a very conservative idea. If you can become more efficient and less wasteful, you should end up saving a ton of money. It's only when being "green" is just to feel good that it crosses away from conservatism - that's when it usually wastes money instead of resources.
Greg December 05, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Good points. $30K does not go that far with search engine placement, but to know how effective this money is going to be we should have more details on how the other 7% is being spent.
Terry December 05, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Since we are clarifying, actually "green" usually does mean liberal. When conservatives talk about it, they usually describe it as energy independence or resource conservation. No self respecting conservative would be caught using the word "green" in any meaningful way.
Terry December 05, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Is this another idea from one of our Mayor's highly efficient sixteen person blue ribbon committees? Because this is an awful idea. We have spent the last few decades driving meaningful commercial enterprises to Saukville and Grafton under the name of preserving our "quaint New England charm". Now when we realize that nobody does come to Port, our solution is to raise taxes on those that do to try to sell a city that just doesn't have that much to draw people here. Awesome plan. Thumbs up.
Ken December 06, 2012 at 12:46 AM
I believe these types of ideas should be remembered around election time as often our candidates for these offices do not identify themselves as republican or democrat. However, these ideas reveal their true colors and once the tax happy Democrats get going it's difficult to stop them. Port has always been a nice oasis from the high tax communities in SE Wisconsin, so we must work hard to keep it that way.
Tom Kamenick December 06, 2012 at 12:47 PM
"Hotel Tax Increase Should Boost Local Business, Officials Hope." So.... you're taxing something in hopes of getting more of it. I think Port officials need some basic economic lessons.
Greg Huegerich December 07, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Maybe they could tax all of the illegal gaming machines in the area instead? That's one of the few areas where I think some oversight and regulation could do some good. The problem is, it seems to be a buddy-buddy situation with the guy selling them and the council.
Terry December 09, 2012 at 12:48 AM
Uselding? Also known as Little Vegas? Oh, yea. He knows people. Good point. If our local government seems unconcerned by these gambling machines, why not tax those instead?


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