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FAIR BOARD TACKLES TOUGH BUDGET ISSUES

By BILL LUNDQUIST

PORT ORFORD With its budget deadline looming, the Curry County Fair Board struggled Thursday night with several budget questions.

The board must find a way to pay the county $6,500 for indirect costs. The cost estimate of replacing the roof on the Youth Pavilion keeps rising.

Members didnt know if they could generate the income to hire a marketing director, and didnt know how the Event Center on the Beach could survive without one.

In the end, the board decided to create a standing budget committee. Its first task will be to create a bare bones budget.

Fair Manager Ron Crook said his staff has been working bare bones since 1993, without any help from the county.

He said the Event Center on the Beach will go into fiscal year 2002-03 with $42,000 in carry-over funds, instead of $50,000, partly because of indirect costs it must pay the county for accounting, treasurers and legal services.

Board member David Hoenie said since the county provides nothing else, it could at least give that $6,500 back.

Board member Les Walker said if the county helps the event center get $70,000 in 4-H Club extension district surplus funds, hed be willing to pay the county $6,500 forever.

Fair Board Chairman Dick Bendtzen proposed forming a budget committee, and offered to serve on it. Crook, who will retire after this years fair, also offered to work with the committee.

He said the main problem with next years budget is the boards proposal to hire a full time manager/marketing director. Crook has always worked half time for the Curry County Fair and half time for the Coos County Fair.

He said hiring a full-time person would require $36,300 more in fundraising, plus another $10,000 if the board wants a new reader-board sign this year.

Bendtzen wanted to design a budget that could operate the facility without fundraisers.

Thats bothered me from the start, said Crook.

We could go another year without the sign, if necessary, said Hoenie, but Ron has had a long road just to keep us afloat. We need fundraising or grants.

Walker said the event center needed a full-time manager. Bendtzen agreed, but said even the best candidate would have to start out for less than Crook is getting.

Walker wondered if the manager could receive a share of the profits. Bendtzen said the budget committee would come back with a recommendation.

Walker also said the repair of the Youth Pavilion is the boards top priority. He said if the board shows it can accomplish that, other funding sources will step up.

If we lose the pavilion, said Bendtzen, we will lose 4-H and it will become an urban fair.

Walker said the other top priority was hiring a full-time manager.

The third priority, said Bendtzen, is we need to treat this facility more like a business and less like a county fair.

Board member David Smith said marketing would be the business emphasis. He withdrew his earlier motion to not hire a marketing manager, and urged that all budget line items be kept in at some nominal level.

Bendtzen said he would charge the budget committee to explain each line item to the board members and let them decide whether to keep it or not.

The members briefly discussed their sign proposal. Bendtzen said they have decided they want a black on white reader-board sign.

He said he has learned that the only way to secure a sponsor for the sign may be to allow a permanent sponsor plate on the sign.

Members had wanted the sponsors name to be in the reader message only, but agreed to allow a sponsor plate if that was the only way it could be done. Smith agreed, provided the sponsor wasnt a beer company.

As for hiring a marketing manager, Bendtzen said the event center was booked solid for April, but is expected to produce only about $3,000 in gross income.

He said if it was able to generate that much every month of the year, and half was dedicated to paying a marketing manager, it would only add up to $18,000.

Folks, said Bendtzen, we need to hire a manager that for the time being can do both, because we cant afford a marketing manager. He said two of the applicants might be able to do both jobs.

Walker said the line item for the marketing director should still remain in the budget, even if it couldnt be funded this year.

Were taking apart what we put together at our workshop, he said. It would be self-defeating to take it out of the budget.

The board also discussed changes to Fair Board policy, but ended up tabling the topic again.

Bendtzen wanted every reference to the fair, fair manager or fairgrounds changed to reflect the new Event Center on the Beach name.

Longtime Fair Board member Viola Cuatt objected to deleting the word fair since that is what it has always been called.

The policy changes could not be approved because Cuatt and Smith voted against the motion.

A frustrated Walker said, We have got to quit micro-managing this or we will never get anything done.

Crook said he would speak individually with each board member about the policy changes and try to find a consensus.

Members found it easy to agree, however, that the damaged roof on the Youth Pavilion must be repaired by fair time.

That, however, was easier said than done. Crook said if all the rusted purlins are replaced, the entire project will cost $82,000 instead of $51,000.

It would cost less, he said, to remove the rust and paint the purlins, but the building might not be finished in time for this years fair.

It was a shocker to me, he said.

Some members felt a loan should be taken out now to make sure the building was ready for the fair.

Why are we talking about a loan? said Walker. I have a problem with that.

He said it was time to find out whether 4-H Club Extension Agent Doug Hart was willing to give the board $70,000 in surplus funds for the project or not.

Were dead without it, he said.

Bendtzen said Curry County Commissioner Rachelle Schaaf had indicated the county had some control over those funds, but didnt know how much.

Crook said those funds came not from the 4-H Club, but from the extension district, from taxes paid in Curry County.

He said the district collects $169,000 each year, and saves the surplus. He said it pays for the extension service building, the staff, and travel and other expenses.

Crook said the tax money has never been used to pay for fair expenses, such as ribbons and awards given to 4-H Club members.

Weve been supporting 4-H to the tune of $5,000 a year, said Hoenie.

That could have been covered by the extension district, said Crook.

Bendtzen said he and Crook would meet with Hart as soon as possible. He said they would first try to get a commitment for the $70,000. If that failed, he said, they would try to borrow the funds.

The Fair Board will hold a special meeting April 25 in Gold Beach to finish work on the budget and tabled items.

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