Although the current contract doesn’t expire until the end of March 2023, Visit Madison Inc. is seeking a decision by the Jefferson Board of Tourism on its new contract by the end of year.
No decision was made at Monday’s JCBT meeting when VMI Executive Director Andrew Forrester sought a nine-month contract from April to December 2023 with hopes returning to a calendar year scheduling for contracts.
In 2021, JCBT established an annual contract that ran from April to March and then renewed under that scheduling in 2022. An additional nine-month contract for 2023 would put VMI on a January to December contract as had been the case prior to 2021.
VMI is requesting $325,000 from JCBT for 2023, which funds 70% of its overall $460,000 budget. The request from JCBT is an 11% increase over this year’s $293,711 allocation for VMI.
VMI Board President Lucy Dattilo said VMI is making plans for 2023 to have a Main Street presence while expanding on the concept of bringing visitors to Jefferson County for all 365 days of year while providing additional support for all events and activities. “All the hard work from the past two years to reorganize, restructure and reimagine Visit Madison is working hand and hand with the renaissance Madison is experiencing,” Dattilo said. “This is benefitting all of Jefferson County. I am really proud of how far Visit Madison Inc. has come.”
Forrester would like for the contract to be on a calendar year because the current April-March arrangement “complicates” VMI operations. “Everybody else runs on the calendar year and from an accounting standpoint we’ve got a contract that runs onto a portion of our 2023 budget year and then we’ve got to switch to a different allocation to plan for, so it makes a lot more sense from our side of accounting, and it also lines up with what the city and county do” with their budgets.
Forrester said an earlier decision on the contract also impacts VMI’s decisions on staffing. For example, he said there is a marketing specialist position that has been vacant since mid-year that Forrester is waiting to fill until the contract is decided. “When I’m getting ready to hire somebody I want to be sure we’ve got a contract that’s going past March 31. If I am going to bring somebody else full-time on” VMI needs to be certain that funds are being provided to support that position.
VMI currently has three full-time staff members and four part-time, and Forrester would like to increase that to four full-time and five part-time. “I still want to get a marketing person” that can help Executive Marketing Director Sarah Prasil, Forrester said, noting he wants to be able to focus on doing what it will take to make Jefferson County a destination for 365 days a year, not just special events and weekends. “We’ve talked about things like group tours, working with walking tours, working with digital tours on apps” and much more that expand what VMI is doing to make the county more of a year-round destination.
Tourism Board Bember Jim Bartlett said that other than deciding whether to do a nine month contract or a 12 month contract, he doesn’t see that many differences between the JCBT board and VMI in terms of the contract. “I don’t think we’re far apart at all based on the discussion I’ve heard around here, and frankly I’d like to see us move forward sooner rather than later.”
Bartlett also said he personally “likes moving everything back” to a calendar year for the contract. “To me, it just makes a whole lot more sense” in dealing with one contract.
Commissioner David Bramer, who also serves as JCBT president, said the board will have more discussions on the contract at its Dec. 19 meeting. “We’ll see where we’re at and if we could be pretty close” to agreeing on the contract.
In other business:
• With more than $500,000 already collected this year through the county innkeepers tax, it appears the county is well on its way to surpassing last year’s record of $537,606.48. The balance in JCBT’s account was $871,198.79 prior to a claim totaling $76,310.25 from VMI for operations and marketing.
• Heard updates from Kara Schafer, treasurer of the Chautauqua committee; Ellie Troutman, organizer of Madison’s Wild West Rodeo; and Erin Kindle, coordinator the Madison Ribberfest & Blues Festival, on those events — all of which received funding from JCBT with Chautauqua and Ribberfest each receiving $40,000 while the rodeo received $25,000.
Troutman indicated that she will be seeking support again from JCBT for a 2023 rodeo, scheduled for the weekend of Sept. 22-23, but added there are also plans to make it a week-long event. “There will be more things leading up to it, and those are the things we will be looking to you as an investment partner,” said Troutman, noting she plans to make that request at the December meeting.
• A draft of a grant application for groups to submit to JCBT for consideration for funding was put together by board members Victoria Perry, Ron Bateman and Wendy Lawson, with plans to submit a final draft at the December meeting.