It has become a destination for 4 to 5 million tourists each year. The attractions within the city of Wisconsin Dells and Lake Delton contribute approximately $1 billion each year to the area economy. Leaders in both communities are asking voters to raise the sales tax rate paid by those tourists.
The referendum vote, which will be held on Feb. 18, is asking voters to raise the Premier Resort Area Tax one quarter of one percent. The current Premier Resort Tax rate for those communities is one percent.
"With combined populations, between the city of Wisconsin Dells and the village of Lake Delton we have around 6,000 residents, but we have 4 to 5 million visitors per year. That’s a lot of services, added services that are needed that are on the backs of taxpayers. The PRT (Premier Resort Tax) allows us to pretty much tax the tourism industry to allow us to make upgrades to our services and make upgrades to our infrastructure that without that we would be a struggling city," Brian Landers, mayor of the city of Wisconsin Dells, said.
The funds from the tax increase would be used to repair and replace aging roads, sewer lines and water lines. Improvements would also be made to public safety agencies including police, fire and ambulance services.
A portion of the tax increase would also target projects to increase tourism in the area. Both communities would like to become a destination for youth sports teams.
"We have made a concerted effort to get into the sports marketing area and so we need to develop our infrastructure for that. That means soccer fields, baseball fields, lacrosse fields, more sheets of ice for hockey to be able to build upon the existing tourism base," Tom Diehl, a Village Board member in Lake Delton, said.
Residents in both communities will need to pass the referendum. If voters in either of the two communities fail to pass the referendum, it will be defeated.
According to language on the referendum, if the Premier Resort Tax rate increase is not approved the city will have to rely on other revenue sources such as the property taxes and fees to pay for increased infrastructure expenses.