Tourism Zone Passes Surplus to Visitor Bureau

The Door County Tourism Zone Commission voted to pass the remainder of a budget surplus to the Door County Visitor Bureau (DCVB) in a meeting on March 26. The amount, estimated between $50,000 and $65,000, will improve the marketing efforts of the DCVB.

The total surplus, amounting to $189,000, has built up over several years of a reserve in the commission’s budget. The budget comes from room tax charged to lodging in the county when a visitor pays for an overnight stay.

Thirty percent of the total tax collected is returned to the municipalities for promoting their individual events while 66 percent goes towards the DCVB in their countywide marketing efforts. The commission retains the remaining four percent to cover the administrative costs of the tax collection and enforcement.

Over several years, the reserves from this four percent have built up to a surplus that is separate from the money allocated to the municipalities and DCVB.

Josh Van Lieshout, chair of the commission, claimed a milestone was reached as the commission no longer had to borrow money to cover operating costs. Operating costs include the online network and administrative costs of collecting room tax as well as professional fees paid to the accounting firm KerberRose in Sturgeon Bay.

When the commission began in 2007, it had to take more than the allotted four percent to cover costs throughout the year.

“Our expenses are pretty consistent through the year whether the county is really busy or if it’s not,” said commission member Bill Weddig. “So we don’t actually see a big cash flow until fall because people don’t have to report what they collect in August until the end of September.”

In the slower months at the beginning of the year, the commission relied on these loans to cover operating costs. Now, between increased collections and reserve funds, the commission is self-sufficient.

Of the $189,000, the commission will keep 20 percent as a cash reserve. An estimated $50,000 will cover operating expenses during the slow spring season.

Another $50,000 will be held to update the online network and improve the efficiency of administrative costs. The commission has less than $400 in outstanding room taxes, but they hope to get that number down to zero.

The upgrades will also improve the amount of information gathered from the hotels such as what types of rooms are being rented and when. Offering that information to the DCVB allows for more pointed marketing efforts.

“[DCVB] can see what types of room have been renting and where the money could be better spent in terms of where the majority of the open rooms are in the middle of August for instance,” said Weddig.

The estimated $50,000 cost is a “very educated guess” according to Van Lieshout.

After these deductions from the surplus, the commission discussed what to do with the remaining money.

While supporting the commission’s efforts to improve internal systems, DCVB President Jack Moneypenny felt that any remainder should be passed to the marketing efforts of the DCVB.

“I think we’ve gone above and beyond putting money back in the communities to help them with marketing,” said Moneypenny. “Where I have a challenge is when someone else starts wanting to pick a marketing project to spend this money on, when that’s what we’re supposed to do.”

The legal agreement between the commission and the DCVB is premised on the goal of increasing overnight stays. Despite the surplus being a part of the four percent allocated to the commission, it felt as though the remainder is best served in the hands of the DCVB to achieve this goal.

“I don’t believe this board should be coming up with a marketing idea to spend money. That’s not what you’re here for,” said Moneypenny.