City Creates Tourism Commission
Finance committee approves new ordinance without reading it
By Brandi Makuski
The City of Stevens Point has created its own tourism commission.
Due to a change in state law which takes control of room tax dollars away from elected officials, the city was required to create a commission to determine how to utilize 70 percent of all room tax dollars on promoting tourism in the city.
“Up to this point, room tax distribution has really been up to the city council, even the portion that’s used for tourism promotion and development,” said City Treasurer Corey Ladick. “Due to a legal change, that can no longer be under the control of elected officials anymore; they’re requiring the creation of a tourism commission.”
The commission will be comprised of five city residents appointed by Mayor Mike Wiza, with state law requiring one member to be a professional from the hotel and lodging industry. The commissioners will serve one-year terms each.
Wiza said he’s been quietly shopping for appointees and should have at least a partial list to present at Monday’s city council meeting. Appointees will also include a citizen advocate, a member of the city’s park commission and a representatives from the local sports scene and UW-Stevens Point.
Wiza added he was less-than-pleased with the requirement.
“This is an example of the state screwing up a perfectly good system,” Wiza said of the change. “We’re adding a little more red tape, as mandated by the state, but we’ll survive. The goal is to try to change things as little as possible.” Wiza said.
The city’s finance committee, comprised of council members Cathy Dugan, George Doxtator, David Shorr, Mary Kneebone and Council President Mike Phillips, was asked to approve a new ordinance allowing for creation of the commission on June 13.
Committee members asked almost no questions of the new ordinance, nor did they see it — Ladick said the ordinance was inadvertently left out of the meeting packet, but promised a copy the following morning — before unanimously approving it.
“I trust you,” Ald. Mike Phillips said, but then asked, “Everything they do, we have to approve, correct?”
“No, the state took everything away from the local [elected] body,” Wiza said.
According to Ladick, the city brings in about $750,000 annually in room tax, 70 percent of which goes towards tourism promotion.
“So you’re looking at over $500,000 as far as what the commission would be entrusted with,” Ladick said.
The full city council is expected to approve the new ordinance during its monthly meeting on Monday at 7 PM in the courthouse. The public is welcome to attend.