With a contract finally agreed upon between the Jefferson County Board of Tourism, Visit Madison Inc. has its operations funded through the end of March of 2022.

At Monday morning’s VMI meeting, the board turned its attention to marketing funding, which still must be determined by JCBT, which is requiring a strategic plan from VMI.

Board members encouraged Sarah Prasil, VMI’s executive marketing director, to focus on the strategic aspects of the plan that will guide the spending rather than delve too deeply into the specific ways money will be spent.

“Even when you have a plan, it always changes,” said board member Hannah Fagen, noting that changing circumstances impact how every strategic plan is executed.

Prasil said not having the marketing fund issue settled has put the agency “way behind” with the county’s marketing due to the lack of funding. She said for now she is continuing to plan ahead as best she can.

Prasil said $42,706.64 has been paid out for expenses with $25,781.64 in pending payments for a total of $68,488.28.

VMI’s staff currently includes Prasil and Tiffini Poling, the office manager. Additionally, Erin Kindle is working as coordinator of Ribberfest. With operations funding now in place, interviews are being conducted to fill staff vacancies and VMI board president Lucy Dattilo is hopeful that the new staff will be on board in the next week.

In other business, the board:

• Heard an update from Kara Hinze on the Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art. She said 94 artists have confirmed attendance with 70 more still needing to respond for the event scheduled for Sept. 25-26. If all respond, a total of 164 artists will be confirmed for the event, which Hinze said is short of the target number of 200.

According to Hinze, COVID-19 is a factor in the decreased number. “There are spring festivals that were delayed to the fall” that Hinze said are in conflict with the Chautauqua, while others are apprehensive because of the recent increase in COVID-19 cases. “Hopefully, next year will be better,” she said, adding that one benefit of having fewer artists is “we might be able to spread them out more because of COVID.”

Hinze also reminded that with this being the 50th anniversary Chautauqua that they are discussing adding music to the weekend that would take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. after the Chautauqua booths close for the day at 5 p.m.

• Voted to update the VMI bylaws to include an ex-officio member from JCBT that both VMI and JCBT will mutually agree upon. In the contract that was approved by JCBT and VMI, there was a provision that a JCBT board member serve in an ex-officio capacity on the VMI board.

• Heard a report by Kindle on the Madison Ribberfest BBQ and Blues Festival on Aug. 20-21. Regular meetings have been held for planning with weekly meetings schedule from now until the event. Much of the preparation work is done, but Kindle said she is finalizing golf carts, sponsorships, and other details.

• Heard a report on innkeepers tax collection totaling $195,337.95 in 2021 through June, an increase over last year when $79,667.46 was collected through the first half of the year. It’s also higher than the half-year totals for 2019 ($152,954.78) and 2018 ($135,982.64).