Monday, April 16, 2012

Budget Hearing: Troubled Farmers Market ask for $400K increase.

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Summary: Jeff Themm, Director of Farmers Market makes the presentation. One of our major goals has always been to be financially independent, says Themm, but we have not done as well as we had hoped. He tells what they have accomplished, what services the market provides, and what they are planning to do in the future. The market is contemplating charging for parking.

The mayor gushes with praise for farmers market. The Mayor says he likes the night market and thinks it has great potential and encourages its expansion. The farmers market is asking for a $400,000 increase in subsidy. (The 2011-2012 subsidy for the Farmers Market is $536,000.) Rich Reibling, Finance Director, ask what plan there is to grow revenue to reduce the subsidy and Themm does not have  a clear and convincing answer. Ms. Tana Comer, the Chair of the Farmers Board says they are in the process of doing a strategic plan and they are waiting for the financial review to come out so they will know what they are dealing with.  Mr. Themm says one to the things in the budget request is $25K for an outside study advised them of what they should do. 

The date of this budget hearing was March 26. On Friday April 12 Mr. Themm announced his retirement. He said he has been thinking about retirement for six months. Everyone has known the farmers market has had serious problems for some time. On April 4th the audit of the farmers market was released.The review listed numerous problems and reported that some tenants were overcharged more than $5,000, while others were undercharged more than $10,000. To address the problems, a complete rewriting of the governing rules and regulations governing Farmers Market was recommended. To view the audit follow this link.

I like Farmers Market and think it adds to the quality of life for our city, but if I were in the Council I would be hard pressed to support almost doubling the subsidy of the farmers market. Maybe new management will correct the problems but I would not support increasing the subsidy. There must be a limit. We should be moving toward making the market self sufficient not moving toward greater subsidy.

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