No matter where you stand on the controversial Windigo Festival there are still many questions surrounding the event. Questions that you may have not considered or even known about. Did you know that the Festival has been granted thousands of dollars in the past two years by a Room Tax Fund? Do you know who the members of the Room Tax Commission are and how it works?
In true Periscope fashion, let’s dig a little deeper!
Windigo is a festival that celebrates the Halloween holiday and “all things Halloween”. www.windigofest.com
The Windigo Society received $13,000 for its inaugural festival in 2017. They received $6,500 for this year’s festival. The money was earmarked for marketing the festival.
To back up a bit, room taxes are collected from hotels and restaurants within the taxing district and they are put into a fund. Since 2013, Manitowoc’s room tax has been 8%. The 2018 budget for room tax funds was $600,000, which is the expected amount that the room tax is expected to bring in. In return, room tax dollars are turned around and spent on activities that are felt to promote and develop tourism. The current formula calls for 52.19% of room tax revenues to go to the Manitowoc Visitor and Convention Bureau, while “civic projects” receive 43.44%, the City’s General Fund receives 3.12%, and the Manitowoc International Relations Association (MIRA–the oversight arm of the Sister City relationship with Kamogawa, Japan) receives 1.25%
Room tax expenditures and policies are set by a six person commission consisting of the following members (current holder in parentheses)
–The Mayor (Justin Nickels)
–The Manitowoc Community Development Director (April Kroner)
–The Common Council President (Ald. Scott McMeans)
–The Finance Committee Chair (Ald. Jim Brey)
–The Parks and Recreation Chair (this committee was disbanded) or an alternate (Ald. Eric Sitkiewitz)
–a representative of the Wisconsin Lodging Industry (Pat Reilly from the Holiday Inn)
Getting back to Windigo Fest, obviously the Room Tax Commission saw this as a worthy expenditure of Room Tax revenues. Along those lines, how does the commission determine that? What “process” is there for the distribution of these significant funds? Sometimes outside influence can creep in and playing politics can always be a factor. While the Periscope Group is impartial when it comes to what the festival represents, we pose the questions:
Is this the best usage of room tax commissions funds?
Has the festival really brought a substantial amount of tourism to the area that our community has seen a significant “uptick” in tourist spending and recognition to our area?
Would other types of spiritual groups who may celebrate other types of holidays be able to receive the same type of funding?
Are there any metrics in place–any return on investment benchmarks–that must be met to obtain room tax funds?
These are all legitimate questions that perhaps one hasn’t considered, and it wouldn’t be hard to obtain the information necessary to answer most of these questions.
On a related note, recently the Room Tax Commission elected to award Room Tax revenues to the Capitol Civic Center, the Rahr West Museum, and the Wisconsin Maritime Museum. How were these groups singled out while other organizations that also contribute to our cultural and historical fabric (Manitowoc County Historical Society, Pinecrest Historical Village, Manitowoc Symphony, etc.) were left out?
What is the proper use and disbursement of Room Tax funds?
How should the Room Tax Committee evaluate requests for funds?
What are the policies/standards for the selection of fund disbursements?
Has the community made any money from their investments?