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Sister Bay Residents Will Vote on Resort Area Tax

A resolution from the Sister Bay Village Board set in motion a village-wide vote on adoption of a Premier Resort Area Tax (PRAT). The vote will take place with the Feb. 20 spring primary. The village expects the 0.5 percent increase in sales tax will generate more than $174,000 in additional revenue.

“We believe the $170,000 estimate from the Department of Revenue (DOR) is probably low,” said village administrator Zeke Jackson.

The village board passed the resolution unanimously Nov. 21, but to take effect it must be approved by village electors. In the meantime, village staff will put together a document detailing the tax and a plan for the additional revenue.

The tax would apply to almost everything that requires sales tax already, including sales at bars, restaurants, retail stores and hotels. Retail outlets, manufacturers and wholesalers are not subject to the tax. Because tourism drives much of the tax revenue in Sister Bay, village officials believe the PRAT is a way to tax tourists for use of village infrastructure.

“The difference is you’re letting your tourists and visitors pay for their share,” said Dave Lienau, village president, when the village first considered the PRAT in June. Although the tax is paid by everyone, tourists who pay the majority of sales taxes already will pay the majority of the increase as well.

The Village of Sister Bay and the Village of Ephraim are the only two municipalities in Door County that can enact the PRAT under current state law. Although the City of Sturgeon Bay is looking at a PRAT to help repair roads, they will not be able to do so without an act of the state legislature.

Wisconsin Act 75 in 2011 gave Sister Bay and Ephraim the ability to enact a PRAT even though the two municipalities did not meet the traditional requirements of adopting a PRAT, including percentage of tourism-related infrastructure in the municipality.

Drew Bickford, store manager at On Deck Clothing in Sister Bay, doesn’t expect much change in the business climate, although he did think it was strange that items from the store’s Sister Bay location will be slightly more than the store’s two other locations in Fish Creek and Sturgeon Bay.

The PRAT will bring the total sales tax rate in Sister Bay up to six percent.

In other matters in Sister Bay:

  • The village disbanded the Parking Committee due to continuous lack of quorum. The committee’s tasks will be taken up by the Plan Commission.
  • The village has been accepting applications for village administrator, which Zeke Jackson will be vacating in mid-December. Each Friday the applications are sent to trustees Dave Lienau, Pat Duffy and Denise Bhirdo. In the next few weeks village officials will determine the process for hiring a new village administrator and transferring duties. Jackson will return to the village on New Year’s Eve to manage the fireworks show that night.
  • The village brought in approximately $4,000 in revenue from parking citations this summer. While some were happy with the income, board member Chad Kodanko warned of an unwelcoming image the village could be portraying. “I don’t want Sister Bay to be the village that’s giving everybody tickets,” said Kodanko.

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