NEW BERLIN - The funding cord has been cut, and many favorite community events are in free-fall, including the Fourth of July celebration and the Christmas parade.

Both these and many more fun events during the year had received funding help from New Berlin's 8 percent room tax from the city's two hotels, Holiday Inn Express and LaQuinta Inn & Suites Milwaukee Southwest New Berlin.

Due to a change in state law, the room taxes must now be strongly tied to activities that will result in guests staying at hotels and motels.

Funding shift

Until now, the communitywide events had qualified for room tax funding because they brought visitors into the city, some of whom might stay the night. However, that funding will be almost gone next year and will be completely gone in 2019.

The new law required that New Berlin establish a tourism commission to decide how the room taxes should be used.

The commission has now decided that all $50,000 in expected room taxes will go to Visit Milwaukee, an organization that promotes regional tourism. New Berlin and its events would be listed in Visit Milwaukee promotions.

But organizers of local community events are wondering how their events are going to survive without room tax funding. 

"We're very concerned about the funding," said Anida Rose, chairwoman of the Fourth of July Commission.

Bad timing

Losing $10,000 in room tax money comes at a bad time for organizers to find new sponsors, Rose said.

"I've been around 49 years and I've never seen it tighter," she said.

Although the Fourth of July has more than 100 sponsors who supply most of the $100,000 it takes to put on the celebration, they lost a couple of crucial sponsors this year when companies continued under new ownership, Rose said.

In fact, this year's parade budget had to be slashed almost in half, said Fourth of July parade chairman John Ziino.

"The money wasn't there," Ziino said.

That meant he could only afford two premiere bands – the Music City Drum & Bugle Corps out of Nashville, and the Lutheran Vanguard of Wisconsin marching band – whereas he would normally include as many six such bands in the parade, he said.

He had to choose carefully, but he said this year's procession "still turned out pretty decent."

Finding new money

How the Fourth of July organizers intend to make up the funding losses remains to be seen. They are already pounding the pavement to get sponsors, Rose said.

"We work hard at it," she said, adding that she is still hopeful.

"Money by the grace of God flows in," Rose said. "Private sponsors are people who love us and care for us."

Rose who has been on the Fourth of July Commission since its beginning in 1968 said next year will be the celebration's 50th anniversary.

Next year's Fourth of July celebration, the Christmas parade and probably other events will still get some room tax funding.

The approximately $36,000 in room tax money that had not been allocated is expected to be divided up among the groups for next year's events. But those allocations will be significantly less than usual.

Organizers of the Christmas parade already tackled the funding shortage by piggybacking on the Fourth of July celebration, said Ziino, who also serves as Christmas parade chairman.

They had their first food and beverage tent at the Fourth of July celebration in Malone Park.

He said he hopes profits from the sale of food, soda and beer will net enough to make up for losing $6,500 in room tax funding for the Christmas parade. Ziino said he already has that much in his normal allocation for this year's parade, so proceeds from this year's Fourth of July food tent will be put toward next year's Christmas parade.

The food tent was so successful, he had to buy more food four or five times, he said.

Proceeds may even help other community events survive, Ziino said. Those are the Snowshoe Roar, the Plein Air art competition and the Reindeer Romp. Together, they had been granted $9,000 in room taxes this year.

The Prospect Lions Charities of New Berlin are still figuring costs and won't know for another week or so how much in the way of profits the Christmas parade tent made, Ziino said.

If there is still a funding shortage, event organizers will have to think of how to raise more money or the events will have to be dropped, he said.

"If we can't fund them, they'll have to go by the wayside," Ziino said.

Historic impact?

Another favorite New Berlin event, Historic Day, that has a parade, children's activities, barrel rides, tours and music at the New Berlin Historical Society grounds, also will be affected.

The September event received $1,500 in room taxes this year.

The New Berlin Prospect Hill Restoration Foundation, which puts on Historic Day, uses its grant to advertise Historic Day on the radio. Cheryl Schober, foundation president, said the event will probably be able to get along without the grant.

It didn't receive a grant for many years, Schober said.

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