Friday, March 30, 2012

Budget Hearings: Fairgrounds wants $245,000

Metro’s first-ever fairgrounds subsidy key to facility’s future

Faced with thinning reserve funds, Tennessee State Fair Director Buck Dozier is hoping for $245,000 in Metro dollars to sustain operations, an allocation that would represent the city’s first-ever fairgrounds subsidy.

Revenue collected from fairgrounds events –– the annual state fair, auto-racing events and flea markets –– has historically provided the financial backing to run the city-owned fairgrounds. But Dozier told Mayor Karl Dean and his administration Monday that the fairgrounds would need to find a place within Metro’s operating budget to ensure its short-term welfare. read more
Watch the video
 Fair Board Budget Hearings summary: Buck Dozier, Director of the State Fair Board makes the budget presentation. Mr. Dozier says booth rents are up about $82,000, thanks in large part to the good weather. He says the policy of charging $5 for parking is generating revenue, "up $81,000."  The fair board now charges a parking fee for all events. There are 5000 parking spaces. The public has generally been accepting of the new fee for parking.  The flea market is going great. For every month of this year, attendance is up over the previous year. This was the best year for Christmas Village. The racing season looks good. Mr. Formosa has put together a good team. For the first time in a long time, all of the billboard spaces at the racetrack are sold. He has put together a good package. He is reaching out to the community to hear their concerns and establish good community relations. The reserve fund has  $724,781 in it. This current year we estimate we will use about $560,000 of the money in reserve. The previous year we used $898,000 out of reserves. With a $245,000 metro subsidy we estimate that next year we will end the year with $360,000 in reserves. Cost are exceeding revenue. We did not try to raise fees to the extend called for in the Maximus study. We just did not think that was possible. We raised fees as much as we thought we could get buy with. We are in competition with surrounding counties that would try to attract our vendors if we raise fees too high.

My View:  The city has never before subsidized the Fairground. Mr. Dozier makes a good argument that the Fair Board must have a subsidy explaining that they have been staying afloat by drawing down reserves. When the Council conducts their budget hearings, the Budget and Finance Committee should look long and hard at the Fairgrounds budget before going down the road of subsidizing the fairground.  If the current Fair Board can not make the fairgrounds operation break even, then maybe it is time for a new Director and management team. I cannot believe, that since the fairgrounds is paid for, that income cannot cover expenses. I would want to know, when was the last time the Fair Board was audited. Is the current management team committed to making the fairground a success or are they committed to having the fairgrounds fail so the city can dispose of the property?

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