The Great Northern Fair Board Monday discussed dealing with a proposed smaller budget.
Fairgrounds manager Tim Solomon said he put in a request based on last year's budget, but the budget proposal was $90,000 smaller.
Hill County Commissioner Jeff LaVoi said during the meeting that that number is misleading. The county tax revenue going in — just more than $5,000 — is the same, he said.
“We did not cut the tax money that goes to the fair board,” he said during the meeting. “We were going to, wanted to, but we didn’t just because there was just too much other stuff that had to be cut. So you’ll be getting the tax revenue the same as last year. Which is not a lot.”
Solomon said after the meeting that the proposed numbers still were $90,000 less, although he said he had not received a final budget as yet.
“They did cut our budget,” he said.
The Hill County Commission this morning provided a copy of last year’s budget and the work being done on this year’s budget. According to those documents, the fair last year received $241,146 and the proposal for this year is $206,499, although LaVoi said this morning that that amount could change before the final budget is approved in September. He added that the $90,000 figure apparently came from the original budget request — for $271,000 — and the original working proposal which cut that about $86,000.
Solomon said during the meeting that the board should be able to make some of that up — he urged setting a meeting before the next board meeting to finalize discussions on revising fees and rental rates — and should be able to keep going with the fair.
“I think we can survive, just be really cautious on what we hire as far as acts, that kind of stuff,” he said.
One item cut back is plans to continue work on roof repairs for the horse barn. He had requested rolling over $10,000 approved for work last year that was not completed, and that was denied, Solomon said.
Board Chair Bert Corcoran said after the meeting that revenue generated, such as from the food booths and from the Havre Jaycees Demolition Derby, goes to the fair budget but generally falls short and is made up by the county. That is what is being cut, he said.
During the meeting, audience member Trevor Smith asked the board if they would consider charging a gate fee to help make up the difference.
“Why don’t you start charging them at the gate, a dollar, a buck-fifty, something,” he said. “You have to regain that money somehow. Everybody else does it.”
Solomon and board member Missy Boucher both said the board had put out a call to find people to work the gates to do just that, but couldn’t find workers.
“We’re frustrated,” Solomon said.
“It’s frustrating finding an employee on whatever side of the fence you’re standing on,” Smith replied.
Havre Jaycees President Chelby Gooch said people to work the gates are out there and suggested talking to different groups to find workers.
Solomon said the fair board could again put out a call looking for people to work the gates.
Audience member Karla Vaughn told the board that what she has heard has been that people would cut back trips to the fair — such as going up to eat on their lunch hour — if a fee was charged.
Board and audience members said the fee could apply to all day admission, and tickets could be sold at a discount before the fair to gain admission all week.
Referring to the board vote to move the Jaycee Demolition Derby to Saturday from its Sunday slot, which some board members said could increase traffic and sales such as at the food booths, Smith said the board needs to take actions like that and charging a gate fee to make up lost revenue. The Northern Rodeo Association professional rodeo now is Friday and Saturday.
“We don’t want to lose a hundred year (rodeo) tradition either, we’re with you a hundred percent, but you have to look at the bottom line,” Smith said. “We hate to run it as a business, but from what I hear, if we don’t, it’s gone.”
Board member Gus Sharp, who voted against giving the Jaycees Saturday, agreed.
“I think that’s where we’ve got to start going,” Sharp said. “We can’t do the same thing that we’ve done the last 20 years and expect that we’re going to get the same results.
“That and some other things are going to have to change if we’re going to make this self-sufficient and still improve the grounds,” he said.