Zoo director's salary increased to attract candidates

SOUTH BEND, Ind.--The Potawatomi Zoo is operating without a director and many think it's because the position only pays $53,000 a year. ABC57 asked zoo-goers what they think a zoo director should earn.

"That's a lot of responsibility. I would think at least $60,000 at least,” said Carla Korbar, mother visiting zoo from Burns Harbor, Indiana.

The city agrees. That's why in the 2014 proposed budget, the Zoological Society will now chip in $28,000. The city will increase pay by 18-percent, bringing the grand total pay to $96,000.

In case you're wondering, nearby zoo directors in cities like Fort Wayne rack in more than $150,000.

"That's a lot, but if it makes the zoo more known and it makes more activities for the community then it's a good investment,” said Tiana Zornow-Webb, visiting zoo as season-pass holder

And the mayor sees it as just that-a smart investment. A profitable zoo can help a city get back on track.

"We're very proud of it and we think that with the right investments for the future, the zoo can truly be something that really benefits our city, benefits our community, benefits our education, and benefits our economy,” said South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

The zoo gets over 100,000 unique visitors each year, and each visitor that comes to town brings a wallet.

“The zoo could bring us back to life because this is connected to the universities and it’s connected to the community,” said Zornow-Webb. “It could bring more animals here that we don't have and it would make other people travel because we get discounts at the other zoos being a member."

Visitors like Carla Korbar who drove more than an hour to visit, just because her kids say they like Potowatami the best.

"There's just a lot of things that they do- like they have the zoo boo and they have the train for the kids and they have the butterfly exhibit in the summer. It's just really nice,” said Korbar.

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