The Jefferson County Tourism Board received a report Tuesday that an important success indicator — receipts from the county’s Innkeepers Tax — is showing tourism receipts up about 30% over last year.

The board received the report as part of an overall discussion on a county Innkeepers Tax, which is now being disbursed by the county after years of the money first going to the state and then coming back to the county.

Jefferson County received checks totaling $81,000 from hotels, motels and other guest lodgings in August. That includes $53,000 collected by the county and another $28,500 received from the state for room reservations and payments through websites like Travelocity, Expedia and others as well as Airbnb.

The 5% tax, previously collected by the state and then disbursed to the county, has been collected locally since Aug. 1.

Sarah Prasil, marketing director for VisitMadison, said the check from the state was a bit of a surprise but made sense since a lot of transactions are handled through online bookings. However, she noted that it may be a month or two before the county knows just how much to expect from the state because it is not currently known if that $28,500 represents only August or perhaps funds carried over from other months.

Additionally, since the funds received from the state previously were not broken down, it is for now difficult to compare 2018 receipts to past years other than the numbers indicating the county has collected 30% more in 2019 than last year.

“It’s hard to even compare to years past because we have nothing to compare to ...,” Prasil said, noting she expects the county to continue to receive a local check and a state check monthly, but the totals could fluctuate based on “multiple external factors” like number of tourists staying in local rooms and when innkeepers and websites make their payments.

“The fact is, these are the numbers at the end of the day. This is how much cash we have and it’s a great thing,” Prasil said, later adding, “... I calculated this about seven times and we are 30% over the year before when you compare the actual collection report ...”

The board has said in the past that the purpose of the taxes collected monthly — and the $623,302 Tourism has on hand in cash and investments — is to support the tourism industry and grow more tourism opportunities while making sure there is some money set aside in the event of a bad year or downturn.

VisitMadison Inc. Executive Director Tawana Thomas said the financial report and the cash on hand are indications that “the state’s on the right track, the county is on the right track and the numbers are there and they’re verified from this report.”

In other business, the board discussed setting up better guidelines on how tourism funds can be requested for projects ranging from smaller sponsorships and event marketings, to administration and even larger scale tourism development projects. The board has previously said it would like to consider more options for using a portion of its money to support tourism through such grant initiatives.

In the end, the board decided a meeting should be dedicated to just that topic rather than trying to consider the issue along with other monthly business. The board decided to try to organize a special meeting before the November regular meeting.