Rhinelander city administrator suggests city look for new ways to get moneySubmitted: 06/17/2014
Story By Lauren Stephenson

RHINELANDER - Rhinelander's City Administrator thinks the city relies too much on property taxes. Blaine Oborn presented his findings to the City Council last week.

Taxpayers in Rhinelander pay a little more than $750 in property taxes on average each year.

In Antigo, taxpayers pay a little more than half of that, while Merrill residents pay more than $500 on average in property taxes. Both of those cities have almost double the taxable residential property compared to Rhinelander.

"We're overly dependent on property tax and we have low to moderate income people. We have a high daytime population. Our commercial industrial even though we have a strong base here, is not contributing enough to really bring that down," Oborn said.

He says government spending isn't the issue. The City of Rhinelander's spending is $95 per capita compared to Antigo's $115 and Merrill's $119 per capita.

Oborn says Oneida County collects nearly $4 million in sales tax each year. He believes half of that revenue comes from Rhinelander. But the city doesn't get any of that money.

Rhinelander accounts for more than 30% of all trade area sales.

"When you talk about trade area, our trade area goes into Vilas County and up into Upper Michigan, and then Forest County and the counties to the west of us, too," he explained.

Oborn believes the city should look at retail to draw in more money.

About 7,800 people live in Rhinelander. But during the day, there are more than 14,000 people in the city.

"During the daytime, our police and our fire get busier. Our roads get used a lot and so that has an impact on the services that we have to provide," Oborn said.

He believes the city could bring in more money by increasing fees.

One option the city's considering is having the fire department charge people involved in crashes.

He also thinks the city should consider a premier resort tax. That's an extra half cent tax charged at tourism-related businesses.

Oborn thinks it could bring in between $300,000 and $800,000. The extra money would be used to improve infrastructure in the city.

"If you go to a hardware store, they wouldn't have to charge the extra tax. But if you went to a department store or a sporting goods store, that's considered more tourism-related, then they would have to collect the half cent in sales tax," Oborn explained.

The Department of Revenue decides which businesses must charge the tax. The state legislature would have to approve the tax for Rhinelander.

Then it would most likely go to a referendum.

Lake Delton, Wisconsin Dells, Bayfield and Eagle River have Premier Resort Taxes.

You can see a chart of the revenue from the premier resort tax at the link below.

Related Weblinks:
Premier Resort Tax Distributions

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MERRILL - With the season of giving upon us, many will be looking for ways to help out those who are in need this winter.

This year, you will only have to go as far as your closet to help families living in the Northwoods.

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PARK FALLS - Many people in the Northwoods go to church on Sunday mornings, and for some of them it may be begrudgingly.

But there are plenty of people, often elderly or sick, who want to go to church but have a hard time doing so.

Peace Lutheran Church in Park Falls wanted to change that. Since May, they've been undergoing some construction. On Sunday, the church had a dedication ceremony for a special new addition—an elevator.

Now people like 100-year-old Ruth Olson can worship with greater ease.

Before the elevator, Olson said she would get to church by literally pulling herself up the stairs using the railing.

Olson's story is like many. As the older population grows, church buildings don't evolve with them. The buildings are often old and sometimes lack accomodating features for the elderly or disabled, and takes money to update the buildings.

"We have churches where the people are getting older and it's very hard for people to get around," said Rev. Dwayne Lueck, the district president for the North Wisconsin District Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod.

Some parishoners couldn't do what Ruth used to do, and so they would have to worship at a service held across the street in the day care center, instead of in the beautiful church.

"Now all the services can be over here," said Rev. Dale Heinlein, the pastor of Peace Lutheran.

The congregation at Peace Lutheran believed in an elevator, so they paid for it.

"We been talking and planning this for...a long time," said Dick Ross, president of the congregation. "Pretty hard for some of the people, and I think you saw them, pretty hard for some of the people to worship here, so it was time."

"You can see it in their eyes more than anything when they know they have access and when they come up here and just enter the building and no steps, it's a great thing," said Buzz Peters, a parishoner who helped design the new elevator and space.

"We can finally have access for everybody to get into the worship facility, free access, that's what this is all about," Heinlein said. 

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MADISON - New state data show that nearly 15,000 Wisconsin residents lost access to food stamps in the first three months of a new law that requires some recipients to seek jobs.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports (http://bit.ly/1Ple8j5 ) it obtained the data from the Department of Human Services under the state open records law.

The rule took effect in April for participants in the state's food stamp program, FoodShare. It requires able-bodied adults without children living at home to work at least 80 hours a month or look for work to stay in the program.

The DHS data show about 25 percent of the 60,000 recipients eligible to work were dropped from the program between July and September. But about 4,500 found work through a new job training program for FoodShare recipients.

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WOODRUFF - If they haven't already, people will start bringing out the Christmas decorations.

And it wouldn't be complete without that perfect Christmas tree.

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MINOCQUA - It's that time of year again.

Minocqua kicked off its' Christmas celebrations Saturday.

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MADISON - Two Republican legislators have created a bill that would shift federal road dollars from local projects to major state projects. Opponents say the bill is a backdoor attempt to make sure federal prevailing wage requirements don't apply to local projects.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Duey Stroebel and Rep. Rob Brooks would transfer $47 million in federal funding from local projects to state projects and move $47 million in state dollars from state projects to local ones.

Stroebel says the swap would save money by removing local projects from burdensome federal regulations.

He has been a vocal advocate for doing away with prevailing wage statutes, which require minimum salaries for workers on government-funded construction projects.

Spokeswomen for GOP legislative leaders didn't respond to inquiries about the bill's chances.

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MOUNT HOREB - A southern Wisconsin school district has cancelled plans for elementary school students to read a children's book about a transgender girl after a group threatened to sue.

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