City of La Crosse room tax increase could help pay for La Crosse Center renovation

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Before the $42 million La Crosse Center project can begin full steam ahead, city officials are finalizing how to finish paying for the expansion.

“We know that we have to come up with about $2.5 million. We didn’t want all of that to fall on the backs of our property taxpayers and we wanted to have more of a balance between the people that live here and then especially the folks that are coming from out of town that are utilizing the La Crosse Center,” said La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat.

Part of the way the city of La Crosse plans to do that is by raising the hotel room tax in the city.

But when Kabat originally asked to move the room tax to 12 percent, it was too steep for Explore La Crosse Executive Director A.J. Frels.

“As initially proposed would be higher than any other municipality or community throughout the entire state. Making us really stick out as having an extremely high room tax,” said Frels.

The city and Explore La Crosse have since come to a compromise, which will still increase the room tax but not by as large of a percentage.

“Less of an increase, so to go from 8 percent to 9.5 percent. But then to use some greater portions, instead of monies going to the operating budget for the Convention and Visitor’s bureau, or the city, or the La Crosse Center itself, we would actually program those monies into debt service,” explained Kabat.

A solution for what officials call a necessary project.

“Competition is tougher and tougher out there. You look at what Appleton and Green Bay’s doing, Rochester. There’s a lot of communities out there locally in our region that are either building new facilities or are renovating facilities. We need to do this in order to stay competitive,” said Frels.

The La Crosse common council will vote on the room tax increase Thursday evening.

If passed the room tax increase will go into affect in La Crosse on Oct. 1, and remain for 20 years before going back down to 8 percent.

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