Webster tourism director, assistant receive raises

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Webster Parish Tourism Executive Director Lynn Dorsey and bookkeeper/executive assistant Johnnye Kennon will receive what commissioners call a long overdue raise.

Webster Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau Commission Treasurer Ty Pendergrass says the board decided to increase Dorsey’s and Kennon’s salaries to bring them within the national average.

“We voted to extend her employment for another year,” he said of Dorsey, adding that by the end of Dorsey’s contract at the end of the next fiscal year, her salary as well as Kennon’s will increase by up to eight percent.

Chairman Kerry Easley says their salary increases are long overdue.

“What we’re trying to do is get these ladies to the national average,” he said. “We looked at all the CVBs (convention and visitors bureaus) in the United States and found out the mean and median, and what we’re trying to do is get them to the level they need to be. We’ll be able to do that by the end of the year (2016).”

Dorsey’s current salary is $42,852. If she gets the full eight percent, her salary will be $46,280.16. Kennon’s current salary is $26,265. If Kennon receives the full eight percent, her salary will increase to $28,366.20.

The national average for a tourism director is roughly $56,000. The national average for Kennon’s position roughly $32,000. These figures come from the 2014 DMO Compensation and Benefits Study by the Destination and Travel Foundation.

However, Pendergrass says these raises won’t be all in one lump sum. It will be given in steps over the 2016 fiscal year until they have received up to an eight percent increase from their current salaries.

Even though the exact figures are not reflected in the proposed 2016 budget, which was approved at Tuesday’s meeting, the commission will have to adjust the budget by the end of the 2016 fiscal year to reflect those changes.

In 2015, the commission budgeted $330,000 for their overall income, and it increased by $30,000. In 2016, they are budgeting $360,000.

The commission’s income is derived from a dedicated state sales tax for hotel rooms that generates between $166,000 to $180,000 as well as the local hotel-motel occupancy tax that generates roughly the same amounts. The proposed amendments to the budget were to increase their income to match what they brought in.

Much of the increase in the income comes from the taxes generated from RV camping at Muddy Bottoms ATV and Recreation Park, Dorsey said.

Their total expenses were budgeted at $309,269 and were amended to reflect its actual amount at $295,267. Expenses include promotion and print materials, the line item nonprofits supported each year, salaries and payroll expenses, office and mobile telephones, travel, insurance and special projects.

Pendergrass made a special note in the proposed 2016 budget that income exceeds expenses by $37,483.

In other tourism news, Iris Harper of Harper Media was approved as a line item in 2016’s budget for an annual fee of $5,000. She was contracted to update tourism’s website and other social media outlets.

  • Grants approved as line items for 2016 include:
  • Springhill Rodeo for $4,000
  • Cultural Crossroads for $4,000
  • Dorcheat Museum for $4,000
  • Fasching Festival for $4,000
  • Germantown Colony Museum for $4,000
  • Springhill Lumberjack Festival for $4,000
  • Main to Main for $1,000
  • Scottish Tartan Festival for $4,000

Also approved was a grant application for $1,000 in advertising for the 2015 Sarepta Christmas Festival set for Saturday, Dec. 5. The commission approved their request for advertising funding as a line item for the 2016 Sarepta Christmas Festival as well, for $4,000.

A major grant request for advertising funding was approved by the commission from the Brothers Keepers that sponsors the annual Burn Run. The commission approved $4,000. The full proceeds from this fundraiser go to Camp I’m Still Me, which offers an annual summer camp for burn victims. The auction and fundraiser is hosted at Lake Bistineau State Park.

In other news, the cooperative endeavor agreement with the Minden-South Webster Chamber of Commerce was renewed for 2016 for $2,100 per month, totaling $25,200 for the year, and $8,100 for the office operating fees for the Springhill-North Webster Chamber of Commerce.

Outgoing chairman and board member Kerry Easley was presented a gift for his years of dedication and service to the commission. The November meeting was his last as a board member.

“My daughters have asked for more of mine and their mom’s time,” Easley said. “They have asked Ann and I both to scale back our activities and spend more time with them. I’m still going to be a part of everything.”

He left commissioners with these parting thoughts.

“Think about the future,” he said. “Try to find that next thing we’re going to do big. It may be a visitors center or it may be a resort on the bayou, but as it unfolds you’ll see it.”

Easley served five of his seven years as a commissioner as chairman.

“We’ve really appreciated your time here, and we’ve accomplished so much,” Dorsey said to Easley. “I’m going to miss you, you’ve been a great boss.”

In December, names for replacement will be submitted to the Webster Parish Police Jury for approval, and once a person has been appointed, he or she will be sworn in on Jan. 19, 2016, at the next tourism board meeting. The commission will then elect a chairman.

The commission approved tentative meeting dates for 2016, subject to change if necessary, which are as follows: Jan. 19, April 26 in Springhill, Aug. 16 and Nov. 15.

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