Taking a closer look at room taxes

APPLETON – When you stay at a hotel in Wisconsin, chances are, part of your bill will include a room tax.

“Room tax is, essentially, a tax on the traveling public. So it’s a tax paid by people staying at hotels in the area,” explained Pam Seidl, executive director of the Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau.

According to state law, room tax money is supposed to be used for tourism-related projects.

“To be used for tourism promotion and development,” said Seidl.

Seidl told FOX 11 right now Appleton’s room tax rate is at 6%. The state caps the tax at 10%.

Local leaders are hoping to raise the tax four percentage points: half of that to help fund a $28 million exhibition center in Appleton, the other half to help bring more sports tourism to the Fox Cities.

“We have an advantage in that we can use some of the funds, we’re not tapped out. The majority of other surrounding municipalities are kind of at that 10% limit,” Seidl told us.

Oshkosh is at 10%, so is Green Bay.

Those numbers are according to the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

But when it comes to the sports tourism projects, all 19 communities that make up the Fox Cities would need to be on board.

“All of those communities would have to raise the room tax to fund the project,” Seidl said, saying that would need to be voted on by each city or town board.

Then there are local hotels, who will are only likely to support room tax increases, if they believe the projects will bring in more business.

“That’s what the lodging industry will be watching as we look at how we develop plans to use room tax in the future,” Seidl explained.

We reached out to the Fox Cities Lodging & Hospitality Association for comment on this story. We did not hear back.

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