Oshkosh votes against raising event fees

Sawdust Days (WLUK/Mike Moon)

OSHKOSH (WLUK) -- Oshkosh calls itself the 'Event City,' but as the events get bigger, the city is losing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Tuesday the city council voted 5 to 1 against a measure to raise special event fees, however.

Oshkosh City Manager Mark Rohloff told FOX 11 News special events cost the city more than $300,000 a year.

"It's always about what we can do to recover costs, because we don't want taxpayers subsidizing certain events," Rohloff told us.

The costs come from services the city provides to the events.

The events do pay back the city more than $400,000 for services, but Rohloff said the costs are increasing.

"There are things we've never charged for. Things like our community service officers and some of our police and fire supervisory personnel who are out there supervising through an entire event," he explained.

At Tuesday's council meeting eight people spoke out against a plan to raise the special event fees.

One change would have been a ten percent increase across the board.

Sawdust Days' chair has been particularly concerned.

"We've been around for 45 years and I just feel very perplexed," said chair Ellen Schmidt.

"Because of the time and the speed of the resolution. It's not giving these events a heads up for their budgets this year," added Wendy Hielsberg, the executive director of the Oshkosh Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Event organizers pointed out how important events are to Oshkosh's identity.

"For the vibrancy, for the fun, for the family activity, for the life of your community," said Marc Dosogne, the CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Oshkosh.

They also said the wrong decision could force some events to move locations.

"If you want them to start doing that, then go ahead and start charging these fees," said Dosogne.

The council sided with speakers and voted against raising the fees.

"The CVB would like to see this put to a committee and to look at the details of this resolution," Hielsberg advised.

Some of those details include possibly charging different events different fees.

"Very locally based, all about small, non-profit fundraisers, versus events that are for-profit," Rohloff explained.

So council members agreed to have Rohloff form a work group with city leaders and event organizers to figure out future fees.

"As we move forward we need to look at the fees a little more thoroughly," he told us, and that is what the work group will be charged with.

There is no set date for the working group to come up with a solution on future special event fees.

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