HUTCHINSON — The state of Kansas has again failed to help pay the bill for the Kansas State Fair's $29 million master plan project that legislators approved in 2001 — with the fair now shorted about $1.3 million of a match outlined in Kansas statutes.
Earlier this year, fair officials moved about $13,000 from the fair's fee fund to cover a portion of April's $511,000 bond payment.
Fair Manager Denny Stoecklein again addressed the issue during a fair board meeting this week via conference call. He told board members that while the $13,000 was something the fair could handle, next year's shortfall would be nearly $225,000, followed by an $860,500 deficit in fiscal 2012.
The state Legislature is required to match the fair up to $300,000 annually in its capital improvement fund. Money goes toward building upkeep.
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Yet despite being a statutory requirement, the state has failed to make the match five times since approving the fair's master plan.
Stoecklein said this includes the latest state budget, which, at present, does not include the allocation.
As part of the multimillion-dollar project, the fair built several new buildings, including a cattle barn, and a sheep and swine exhibition area. Renovations included making the administration building more functional and modern, as well as making the grandstand more accessible for people with disabilities.
Legislators asked him whether the fair could transfer more funds to make next year's payment, Stoecklein said. Whether there will be funds to transfer hinges on the success of the 2011 State Fair.
At present, the fair is up $328,000 from the 2009 fair, thanks to increased gate admission and patrons buying more food and carnival tickets.
However, Stoecklein said, acknowledging the 2008 State Fair that drew low attendance because of inclement weather, "What if we had eight days of rain?"
Moreover, he said, the dwindling capital improvement fund "doesn't leave much for repair and rehabilitation."
Fair Board President Tom Tunnell, executive director of the Kansas Grain and Feed Association in Topeka, said the issue isn't one that could wait until next year.
Mary Alice Lair, a board member from Piqua, said she was disappointed with the state's actions.
"I'm so disgusted where all the money is going, and the State Fair does so much for the state of Kansas," she said.
Stoecklein said that while the fair could probably sue the state, as school districts have done in the past, he didn't see that as an option.
"I think the best course of action is to continue working through it and make sure (legislators) understand where this is headed."