The Platte County Board of Supervisors narrowly voted on Thursday to approve a 2020 budget for the Platte County Agricultural Society.
However, questions still remained about how the society would use its money, with the vote only passing by a 4-3 margin. Supervisors Jerry Micek, Ron Pfeifer and Bob Lloyd voted against the budget, with Micek saying that the board was not acting in the best interest of county taxpayers.
“I don’t personally feel that the $525,000 (allotted) is necessary to run the (Platte County) Fair,” Micek said. “Our responsibility is to have a Platte County Fair and that we fund it. I personally don’t feel that we need to spend $525,000 just to operate the fair. I understand that we have labor and things, buildings year-round, but to spend $250,000 roughly for wages to run a fair for two weeks, or even the use of that facility for 60 days, there’s just too many items in here.”
His views, but not a shared vote, were echoed by Board Chairman Jerry Engdahl who bemoaned the wide-ranging and complicated profit-and-loss document given to the board by the Ag Society.
“Your sinking fund, your general fund ... it means nothing to me,” Engdahl said. “We don’t understand all those others. Why are we putting money into a sinking fund? How you do it is one thing, but as far as taxpayers are concerned, they’re giving $150,000 for the fair and the maintenance of fair facilities. And this other (stuff), you baffle me with Bull S***. I can’t understand all of this.”
Even so, the board managed to approve a new $450,000 budget and a levy limit of 0.008212 percent for the Ag Society. The levy limit resolution passed with a 5-2 margin, with Micek and Lloyd voting no. This followed a Tuesday meeting in which levy limits were approved for other county agencies, but not the Ag Society, thanks to what the board viewed as incomplete accounting of their finances.
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Thursday’s meeting was just as fraught, with board members like Micek and finance chair Jim Scow continuing their questioning of Ag Park General Manager Brian Palmer. At one point during the meeting, Micek brought the profit-and-loss document to the podium where Palmer was speaking and explained where taxpayer money was used.
“The question is, in my mind, why are we paying $124,459 out of the general fund, which is taxpayer dollars?” Micek said. “$25,121 out of the fair fund, which is tax dollars, and $55,200 in the sinking fund, which is tax dollars? I don’t care what percentage of that is, it’s more than 50 percent of the total payroll and the taxpayers do not have that liability out there for the amount of time that we’re using the fair or any other time out there.”
The Ag Society was concerned that any reduction in their budget could lead to a potential disaster, in that the Platte County Fair would have to be called off thanks to a lack of funding. Indeed, officials from the Ag Society didn’t feel that an amount around $400,000 was sufficient for the agency to function. Supervisor Kim Kwapnioski hoped for better communication between the board and the Ag Society, so that the fair wouldn’t go by the wayside in coming years.
“I think we have to have that communication so that we’re not doing this every year,” Kwapnioski said. “I don’t think that’s fun for any of us, so the more communication we have, I think that would help alleviate a lot of this. We all don’t want to see the Platte County Fair go away.”
Zach Roth is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com.