Increasing hotel room taxes are leaving a mounting balance for the Tourism Commission to spend.
Even though the amount collected by the City of Verona was somewhat lower than projected in the fourth quarter of 2018, the total collected by the City of Verona last year was still more than $640,000.
Most of that gets cut out for the city’s general fund, and the Verona and Madison chambers of commerce, but total excess funds reached $150,000 at the end of the year and grew by more than $65,000 over the past year.
So the Tourism Commission has begun discussing what it should do with those funds, including potential grants for events or municipal developments.
One point commissioners agreed on at their March 20 meeting was there should be an amount kept as a fund balance to prevent disruptions if the funding supply drops. However, the total collected has increased by more than $100,000 each of the past two years, and a fifth hotel is proposed to open in 2020.
Verona Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Le Jordan told the Press the commission discussed a rough, flexible guideline for a fund balance totaling around one-fourth of the $280,000 tourism budget provided to the chamber. The rest, she said, would be used on a case-by-case basis.
Examples for possible uses included opportunities for municipal developments or amenities or unplanned large event opportunities, such as the 3-on-3 basketball tournament Jordan told the commission previously about, which she didn’t have the staff to handle. Jordan said grant requests probably would first go through the chamber and be presented to the commission before being considered.
The chamber’s budget already includes a tourism coordinator hired last year, a contract with a marketing firm that provides graphics and media buys and a variety of grants that help pay for events such as the Verona Area Performing Arts Series, Concerts in the Park and some newer events designed to bring overnight guests.
City economic development manager Dayna Sarver told the Press in an email city staff is drafting a policy based on the discussion to be reviewed in an upcoming commission meeting. She said it likely would be voted on in tandem with the chamber’s tourism budget. That likely will happen around November.