VCVB to jack up spending on salaries, ads, travel

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 12, 2008

Courting visitors will be done on a slightly smaller budget for calendar year 2009 in terms of revenue, but spending will increase for salaries, advertising, travel to trade shows and attractions development.

Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau directors approved a spending plan Thursday that anticipates bringing in about $1 million from the 1 percent tax levied on local hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts, as well as on food and beverages sold at restaurants and bars. Total revenue for next year is budgeted at $1,217,500, including a $200,000 balance in the bureau’s checking account.

For this year, projected revenue was $1,243,645.  However, the bureau’s account likely will see a boost when the final expenditures for this year are totaled because spending is to be slightly less than $922,000, meaning a carryover of $321,768 to supplement next year’s spending. VCVB Executive Director Bill Seratt emphasized the budget excess is not due to a lack of advertising, as the bureau spent more on ads this year — $431,335 — than ever before. Savings in 2008 came in large part from a reduction in legal and professional fees, management salaries and office expenses.

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The advertising budget will increase by  $134,000 in 2009, with projected spending on ads at roughly $565,000. Trade show and presentation spending will increase as well, from $15,338 to $27,000. Despite overall lower tourism numbers this year — blamed in large part by the sluggish economy and record high gas prices for a large part of the year — Seratt said the bureau cannot afford to reduce advertising or trade show attendance.

“We can’t just stick our heads in the sand and stop advertising or attending trade shows because we’re afraid people will not travel here. We have a great product, and we feel it is of the utmost importance to be on the forefront of promoting Vicksburg every stop of the way,” he said, noting the bulk of the advertising dollars will be spent in a 500-mile radius of the city.  

The more than $100,000 increase in salary spending in 2009 — from $328,444 this year to a projected $429,600 — will include the hiring of a new marketing manager and cost-of-living raises for employees, as well as increases in benefit and retirement costs. The VCVB currently has 12 employees, with five employed full time. There has been $30,000 budgeted for a marketing manager to be hired, for which the board is currently seeking applicants. Benefit and retirement cost increases account for about $22,000 in the additional spending, while salary increases are projected at about $86,150.  

The bureau has budgeted spending $300,000 on renovations to its visitor center on Clay Street ($75,000), an overhaul of its Web site ($75,000) and relocation expenses as it looks for a new headquarters ($150,000). Seratt said those expenses will all come out of the bureau’s money market account — which currently has $389,848 — and are not built into the bureau’s operating budget.

The board has approved advertising the visitor center remodeling for bids, and it is aiming to have the new Web site to be up and running by the end of January.

A large portion of the money in the bureau’s money market account came from a $150,000 profit on the sale of its downtown building at 1221 Washington St. in April, said Seratt. Since then the VCVB has used a manufactured building located behind the visitor center as a temporary administrative building. However, a city permit to use the temporary building expires in July.

At the board meeting Thursday were Elmeree Bradley, Lori Burke, Nelda Sampey, Lamar Roberts, David Maggio, Patty Cappaert, Bill Collins, Renay Jenkins and David Day, as well as Seratt, who is not a voting member of the board.


Contact Steve Sanoski at