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Editorial: Timing bad for any kind of tax hike

The City Council did the right thing last month by putting off a decision on whether to raise the local lodging tax from 5% to 8%.

There's no other way to say this: It's just a lousy time for raising taxes, even if they apply to visitors and travelers staying overnight in River Falls.

Actually, most people would say it's never a good time to raise taxes. That's always an unpopular decision. But it's worse now and everybody knows it.

Jobs are scarce or nonexistent. Wages are frozen, even rolled back. Home foreclosures and bankruptcies are still high.

Businesses struggle to keep their doors open, and that includes local motels and bed-and-breakfasts that would have to add a higher tax to their prices. Some lodging operators say that a higher lodging tax would put River Falls at a disadvantage compared to surrounding towns.

The 5% lodging tax, passed just last year, has been used to promote tourism. The council was given no data to show if the tax-funded promotion has paid off.

Proceeds from the 3% lodging tax increase would help the city pay for logistical support to host local events like River Falls Days. Those events also draw tourism dollars.

The council asked for more data before deciding on the tax hike. Makes sense. Is the current lodging tax being spent in such a way that grows local tourism? Will yet a higher tax keep people from staying overnight in River Falls?

Until such information is known, waiting to decide was correct.

There should be no rush to boost any tax, especially one that singles out a segment of businesses. This is a fragile economy. Experts claim a recovery is underway but most of us don't see it in our daily lives. To pile on a higher rate now to a tax that just began last year would be reckless.

Split decision on hotel tax

The Journal's online poll question this week asked: What are your thoughts about the hotel tax in River Falls?

The results so far:

  • Raise it from 5% to 8% as proposed; the city needs the increase to cover its tourism-event expenses; 37%
  • Leave it at 5% and let local property taxes keep paying city-event costs; 7.6%
  • Leave it at 5% and create a city sales tax to pay city-event costs; 4.3%
  • Abolish the room tax and find tourism money elsewhere: high costs will deter overnight guests; 29.3%
  • None, couldn't care less; 21.7%

    To vote, go to

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