Commission begins 2011-12 budget preparations

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May 27 meeting was beginning, not ending for budget, director says

By Stephen Lega

For nearly two hours May 27, the Lebanon Tourist and Convention Commission reviewed its initial 2011-12 budget proposal.

"This is the beginning point, not the ending point," said Executive Director Chris Hamilton, who prepared the proposal for the commissioners.

The initial proposal included $584,732 in projected revenues and $439,889.13 in projected expenses. However, those numbers are likely to change as a result of some of the changes proposed by the commissioners Friday.

One area commissioners questioned was the $147,315.13 for marketing. Based on projections for the remainder of the current fiscal year, the tourism commission will spend $91,205.53 for marketing this year. It should be noted that the line-item for marketing in the proposed 2011-12 budget included more areas than it did in the 2010-11 fiscal year. The commission proposed removing those items (such as t-shirts and printing costs) from the marketing line item and includeing them in a separate line item. With those items removed, the commissioners figured the proposed marketing for 2011-12 would be closer to $123,000 under the proposed budget.

Commissioner Dennis George did not think the commission could justify that much of an increase in the marketing budget.

Commissioner Dave Winebrenner thought the increase would bring the commission more in line with other tourism commissions. Winebrenner had asked Hamilton to prepare information showing how Lebanon's marketing expenditures compared to similar-sized tourism commissions. Hamilton compared the Lebanon tourism budget with Bardstown-Nelson County, Owensboro-Daviess County, Lake Barkley, Cave City and London-Laurel County. According to his findings, Lebanon spent 17 percent of its 2010-11 budget on marketing. The other five entities spent around 30.5 percent of their budgets on marketing. With the exception of the Bardstown-Nelson County commission, which spends 53 percent of its budget on marketing, the remaining four commissions spent between 22 and 28.5 percent of their budgets on marketing.

Winebrenner said Lebanon would be in line to spend 25 percent of its budget for this reason.

The commissioners reached a consensus to increase its marketing expenditures by 10 percent over the 2010-11 level, which would bring that spending to around $100,000.

The commission also expressed its support for providing funding for aisle lights at Angelic Hall, improvements to the visitor center (a flat screen TV to show pictures and videos about area attractions), a display case, a coat rack and a projector (for conventions), conference room tables, another information kiosk, pole banners, brown signs (to direct visitors to area attractions) and a blade sign incentive program for downtown.

Hamilton also said the commission may be approached with a request for funds to help install a sound system for the city park, allowing the players to be introduced during the Little League state tournament, which will be held in Lebanon this summer. According to Hamilton, the host site is required to have the equipment to announce players in the tournament.

George pointed out that the city would need to install the sound system, and he thought the city should commit some of its funds toward the cost of the sound system. He said if the commission didn't exist, the city would be paying for the sound system entirely itself.

In a more general sense, he also said he didn't want the commission to become a "slush fund" for other organizations.

The commissioners did not make any commitments regarding specific events for the 2011-12 fiscal year during its Friday meeting. However, Hamilton said that the commission's budget is a working document, and it could be amended if the commission specifies a certain amount for grants.

The commission also indicated it would follow the city's lead with regard to salaries. Lebanon Mayor Gary Crenshaw has proposed a 2 percent pay increase for city employees, but the city council could revise that proposal before it gives its final approval to the city's 2011-12 budget.

After the commission completes its final budget, it will go to the city council for approval.