Room tax ordinance amendments approved

Room tax ordinance amendments approved

Nicole Aimone, News Editor

Airbnb consumers in Whitewater are likely going to be paying more to stay at the short-term lodging services, thanks to the approval of amendments to the city’s room tax ordinance Feb. 22.

The approved amendments proposed to the room tax ordinance have raised the room tax from its original 5 percent rate – a rate that had stayed stagnant since the adoption of the tax in 1999 – to 8 percent. The amendments included language that would now hold the operators of short-term lodging services accountable for not only collecting that tax, but paying it back to the city.

Room taxes that are collected are split among the city’s designated tourism agency and the city government’s general operations budget. The funds given to the tourism agency are only to be used for promotion of the city, but the other half of the funds given to the city can be used in any way seen fit.

The operators of any short-term lodging services will now be treated the same way as hotel and motel owners are in the city – they too will be required to apply for a permit to host patrons on a yearly basis.

The amendments were approved unanimously with a 5-0 vote. Alds. Stephanie Goettl (Dist. 5) and Lynn Binnie (Dist. 4) were absent from Thursday night’s meeting. Little to no discussion on the amendments was held by the council before the vote.

The council waived a second reading of the ordinance because of time constraints with the room tax increase, which is set to take place on April 1 regardless of the amendments that were approved because of its inclusion in the 2018 operating budget.