Wausau and other central Wisconsin communities are trying to figure out the future of their room tax funding after the local visitor’s bureau improperly collected that tax.
Wausau mayor Katie Rosenberg says that the Convention and Visitors Bureau took money that was meant for a number of municipalities from the online booking site Expedia. Rosenberg says that’s a breach of contract, and makes it hard to trust the organization.
“I need to trust the partners that Wausau goes into business with, right? That we trust with our tax dollars. We need to make sure that we have that good relationship there.”
Rosenberg says the C V B has since returned their money, but they still want to look over future contracts with the group.
“Do we trust that this is remedied or do we not? And you know right now I’m not seeing what I need to see but I need to talk with the policy body too.”
At Thursday night’s meeting of the city Finance Committee, CVB director Dick Barrett explained that he thought he was obligated to handle money under the contract with the city.
“‘They shall work together toward the collection of any delinquent room tax owed to the city, and the parties shall cooperate with the city to assist in the collection of any delinquent or deficient amounts owed by any operator required to collect and remit room tax proceeds under the city room tax ordinance.’ That is what I followed. We are contracted to do it with you, that’s what we’ve done.”
Finance committee chair Lisa Rasmussen says the C V B should not have been the one collecting the funds.
“There was no call by you to say, “Hey Maryanne, guess what, you might have some room tax coming your way that you’ve not collected.’ There was no such call. There was no collaboration. There was no outreach to the city to say ‘City, heads up, you may have money coming!’ We would have collected it ourselves. Or, there was no outreach to say ‘City, would you like me to do this for you?'”
No action was taken by the committees on the contracts Tuesday evening as Wausau’s Finance Committee adjourned in closed session..