County Fair suffered from heat
Last summer’s extreme heat and humidity during the Faribault County Fair meant attendance at the fair was way down this year.
And, it was no surprise that low attendance would have a big impact on the fair’s finances.
At last Tuesday’s annual meeting of the Faribault County Agricultural Society, the group in charge of the fair, the members of the fair board found out just how bad a financial “hit” they took last summer.
They learned they suffered a big $56,000 loss.
Fair Board treasurer Daryl Murray had the exact details.
“The fair had an income of $103,279,” Murray reported. “But, there were expenses of $159,645. That created a loss of $56,355.”
Fortunately, Murray said, the Faribault County Agricultural Society itself showed a positive income.
The ag society is the organization which operates the fair. It had income of $113,074, from various things other than the fair, items such as renting out the fairgrounds buildings and income from a farm the society owns.
Last year that farm income was $77,535.
The ag society had expenses of $48,792, which left them with a positive cash flow of $64,281.
Combining the loss of the operation of the fair with the cash flow of the society itself, results in a positive number of $7,926, Murray reported.
But, he quickly added they have over $82,154 in outstanding debt in loans to various entities.
Among those is $6,844 still owed for the construction loan for the Veterans Memorial Building; $30,310 from AgStar, borrowed for operating cash; $40,000 from Wells Federal as a line of credit, also for operating capital. It is that funding which basically made up for the $56,000 deficit.On the positive side, the farm income listed on the annual treasurer’s report is from last year’s harvest, in 2015. This year’s farm payment will be made no later than Dec.1. It is unknown at this time how much that will be.
Whatever the amount, Murray said the money is needed to make a variety of payments in the next six months, including real estate taxes on the farmland, loan payments and a $5,000 advance payment to this year’s carnival, due mid-January.
In fact, he listed nearly $100,000 in expenses which will need to be paid out before next year’s fair.
However, one item which has been brought forward by several board members over the past few months, was not on Murray’s payment list.
Fair board members per diems.
Over the years, the members of the fair board have been paid a $50 per diem ($25 half day) for days they work on fair business.
This year, for the 2016 fair, the board had voted to not pay themselves a per diem, due to the financial condition at the time.
However, three board members had submitted per diem requests which had been accrued back in 2015. They said that while they had agreed with the rest of the board to not get per diem in 2016, they did not feel that vote should affect 2015 per diem payments.
Board member Robin Stenzel disagreed, saying it was implied that the board would not be paying any per diem expenses unless a new vote was taken.
Board members Sara Gack, Zach Rinehart and Carl Carlson all said they felt the payments should be paid. They were the only three who submitted 2015 per diem payment requests.
“We were under the understanding that these would be paid,” Gack said. “I have to take unpaid time off from my job to work at the fair and I expected that per diem (in 2015).”
Rinehart agreed, saying the issue is that they all agreed to not take payment in 2016, but “we didn’t know we were not going to get per diem in 2015.”
He added he felt it was a bill that needed to be paid, like any other bill.
Murray said he felt that in light of the current financial situation, paying out per diem did not make sense. He pointed out that the combined total of money on hand at that moment, for both the fair account and the ag society account, was just $8,882.95 as of last Tuesday night.
“This per diem request totals about $10,000,” he said. “We have voted unanimously to put this money into the fair. I think we need to prioritize paying the bills and loans before we pay ourselves.”
Rinehart also said he had not been reimbursed for out of pocket expenses from 2015. Stenzel and Murray both responded he should have been, as the board has always reimbursed for board members’ expenses. Murray said that item would still be paid.
Board member Marlin Krupp gave what he termed a “history lesson,” and said the board has always paid a per diem and reimbursed for expenses, no matter what the financial condition was, for all the 40 years he has been on the board since 1973.
Board member Milt Steele suggested making a final decision on the matter at the next month’s board meeting, which would be after the farm income comes in. That meeting is set for Dec. 13 at the Kee Kafe in Kiester.
The per diem item was then tabled and no vote was taken on the matter.
Stenzel added, however, that moving forward the board should make it clear what the policy is, so everyone knows ahead of time just what is going to be paid or not.
“We need to vote on this (paying per diem or not in 2017), so we all know and agree on it,” she said.