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La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat is in very early conversations about raising the room tax to help offset the cost of a proposed $42 million La Crosse Center renovation and expansion.

Mayor Tim Kabat

Kabat

Kabat met with a La Crosse County Convention and Visitors Bureau committee Wednesday and sent a letter to La Crosse Common Council members asking them to consider raising the tax on hotel room reservations to 12 percent from the current 8 percent.

“It would allow for visitors and tourists to in essence contribute more to the cost of the Center facility,” Kabat said.

The city has committed to borrowing $35 million to pay for the renovation and expansion, which is expected to bring the city-owned convention center’s economic impact up to about $45 million annually. The remainder of the funding is coming from a $5 million state grant and La Crosse Center funds.

The La Crosse Common Council will vote Thursday on whether to move forward with a west concept that would add an about 12,000-square-foot ballroom, meeting rooms and increase connectivity. The concept allows a variety of additional options, including more meeting space, a larger exhibition hall and a hallway connecting the two ballrooms.

Should the council approve the concept, Kabat hopes that the stakeholders will take a serious look at what it will take to pay off the debt for the project.

“We’re looking at ways rather than just city tax levy to help pay for that debt service and room tax would be one of them,” Kabat said.

He intends to have a financing plan by this summer and thinks the room tax should be a part of that.

Kabat stressed that the proposal wasn’t formalized yet and he intends to have conversations with a variety of stakeholders, including meeting with the CVB board next week, before introducing any legislation.

“I’m asking folks to think about the potential of room tax as being part of that financing plan,” Kabat said.

Specifically, he’s looking at applying the full increase, which would amount to about $1.3 million to the debt service payments, which are estimated at an average of $2.7 million annually. Currently, the 8 percent room tax is divided about equally between the city, the CVB and the La Crosse Center.

Including room tax funds would be a regional sharing of the costs, Kabat said, and recognize that the entire region, as well as visitors and tourists, benefit from the investment in the convention center.

“I think it’s only fair for city of La Crosse taxpayers that the mayor and the council are looking at every possible way to fund this project without having to raise property taxes,” Kabat said.

The mayor is asking city council members to consider raising the tax on hotel room reservations to 12 percent from the current 8 percent.

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Jourdan Vian can be reached at jvian@lacrossetribune.com or follow her on Twitter at @Jourdan_LCT.

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City government reporter

Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering local government and city issues for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218.

(10) comments

WhattheHEdoublehockeysticks

Highest in the state! Add on 5.5% Sales Tax and .5% PRAT Tax and La Crosse Hotel Rooms will cost an additional 18% in taxes! Don't forget that Center Surcharges will be raised as well as the cost of your hotdog and beer at the concession stand. Do not think the Center Expansion will be paid for by tourists, it will affect all area residents. Just like the stupid PRAT that you voted for, 89-90% of that tax will be paid by local residents, not tourists! The other 2 options on the ballot would have raised about $5 Million but the PRAT will raise over $6 Million. All 3 options raised taxes but since you voted for 1, now the County Board is off the hook for raising taxes. Do your research people!

allcav

Beware of new taxes, particularly if they're just to be "temporary." When the room tax was raised to support the new UW-L stadium, it was supposed to sunset when the City's pledge was satisfied. Instead, the CVB and others lobbied the Council to retain it, and the Council approved. Taxes just rarely go away once imposed.

ElPresidente

The Mayor should look at former Gov. Walker's playbook and just raise all the fees and then claim that I never raised your taxes.

Melowese Richardson

Why is it that I never see that Mayor Kabat is mulling the idea of significant cost cutting? Things that make you go hmmmmm. [sad][sad][huh][huh][unsure][unsure]

spfhr

Gets greener and greener

Barcelona Bob

None of you I bet have ever rented a hotel in Mayberry so it’s not a big deal to you.....

Climatehoax

50% increase, greedy! How about the gas station owners raise gas when there’s an event in town, visitors, you’ll only skrew them once.

Barcelona Bob

Tax the tourists, they’ll never know....great plan. Come on the rest of you ......

Rick Czeczok

This is what happens when a city hands out TIF's like candy. It will always catch up with you. Now instead of spending more money every year, how about the city starts cutting unneeded programs, and programs that are doubled up with the county. Then look at why we have roughly two times the amount of employees as we did 25 years ago, when we have dropped in population from that same timeline. Just makes no sense to me. Mayor, can you please answer that one.

lutefisk

Tax the methamphetamine sales instead

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