The question has been asked: Why are the streets in Rhinelander in such terrible condition? The simple fact is that revenues have dwindled over the past several years due to a number of issues; one of which is that the State of Wisconsin continues to provide tax relief to businesses without replacement funding. An example is the Rhinelander paper mill which has gone from 52 percent of city property tax revenue to 1 percent. We have to find ways to replace those lost revenues. The city could choose to cut services such as police and fire, but that would be hurtful to all. One funding source being considered is initiating a Premier Resort Area Sales Tax (PRAT). By initiating this 0.5% (half cent on the dollar) sales tax, it will alleviate the need to increase property taxes for city of Rhinelander residents while also keeping city services constant. The PRAT will also generate revenue from regional residents who daily utilize the infrastructure of the city as they traverse to work and shopping, as well as travelers and those who come to the city as summer visitors.
Keep in mind that the city of Rhinelander swells daily to nearly double its size by those working and shopping in the city. Daily the infrastructure is utilized yet those coming to the city have no stake in the city in that they don’t contribute to city upkeep. We are certainly grateful to those who visit, yet we also recognize the fact that upkeep costs continue year by year with the burden falling on city residents only.
How would the PRAT tax work and what types of purchases will this effect? The 0.5% (half cent on the dollar) sales tax would be collected from those shopping, visiting and vacationing in the Northwoods. Variety stores, general merchandise stores, department stores, tourist-related stores (convenience stores, restaurants, taverns, hotels) clothing, sporting goods and gifts (apparel, accessory, sporting & recreation items) will be those businesses collecting the PRAT sales tax. State of Wisconsin law dictates that PRAT proceeds can only be spent on infrastructure expenses such as roads, bridges; just what is needed for the city of Rhinelander. It has been estimated that the PRAT could generate $400,000 yearly to be utilized for road/infrastructure repair. It has also been expected that this amount is needed yearly just to keep pace with roads as they age.
None of us like additional taxes. However, this seems to me as the least painful for city residents and homeowners; and most fair since it would collect from those who use city services and infrastructure but because they aren’t residents are not assessed via property taxes. I’m asking that you each consider this issue carefully, educate yourself and then get behind the PRAT sales tax and vote on April 7.
Mayor Dick Johns, Rhinelander