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3/25/2004

State Fair shows a smaller loss

The Associated Press

DENVER — The State Fair has posted its second straight year of losses, but agricultural officials say its economic benefits easily outweigh the bad news.
An audit of the 2002 fair shown to lawmakers Tuesday showed an operating loss of $1.2 million, compared to the $1.1 million deficit a year earlier.
While the fiscal year 2003 operating deficit was covered by federal funds Gov. Bill Owens authorized, agriculture officials say the fair should not be seen as a drain to the state. A study by two Colorado State University-Pueblo economics professors showed that the fair had a $22.6 million economic impact on businesses and the state.
“Does the fair itself make money every year? No, we don’t,” State Fair General Manager Ed Kruse said. “But is Colorado better off every year because the fair is there? Absolutely.”
Dennis Yockey, a partner in the audit firm Grant Thornton, said much of the latest deficit was due to a drop in box-office sales, which slipped $220,000. The audit was released to the Joint Budget Committee.
A bill before the Legislature would allow taxpayers to check off part of their tax refund as a contribution to help raise an estimated $200,000 for the fair. Kruse said he’s hopeful the Legislature will improve an annual subsidy for the fair.
“I think when the economy gets better and state revenues go up, we’ll have support (for an annual subsidy) in the Legislature,” he said.
This year, the state Agriculture Department, which oversees the fair, asked the Legislature for $400,000 for the 16-day event, but the governor’s budget request only included $100,000. The Legislature removed that amount.
“Without a doubt, the Legislature will have to finally decide to provide funding for the State Fair,” said Rep. Brad Young, R-Lamar, who chairs the JBC.