By Gary Budzak
The Delaware County Agricultural Society’s Board of Directors is seeking a 3-percent bed tax to repair outdated buildings.
The announcement was made at the Delaware City Council meeting on April 28 by board vice president H.C. “Chip” Thomson.
“Without this bed tax, the Delaware County Fair and the Little Brown Jug could simply cease to exist,” Thomson told council.
The fairgrounds have always been self-funded through admission, facility rentals and training at the race track; but many of the buildings, constructed following World War II, are starting to show their age. Thomson said repairs currently being made to the buildings “are like putting lipstick on a pig.”
He said the tax would raise an estimated $190,000 annually. “This is a usage tax that will raise much-needed funds,” Thomson said.
Board secretary and Fair general manager Bill Lowe said the Fair made $48,000 in 2013. He said that the Fair’s attendance was hit hard by the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the remnants of Hurricane Ike in 2008 and three days of rain in 2011 that turned the grounds into a quagmire.
“We’re in a cycle of paying for last year’s fair with this year’s money,” Lowe said. “The tax would provide a revenue stream.”
Lowe said the fairground’s restrooms “are spartan at best,” and surveys indicate bad restrooms are what women dislike most about the facility. In addition, faulty furnaces prevent some buildings from being used from November to April.
Board member Pat Paykoff said there was a water main break on the grounds a few weeks ago, releasing 175,000 gallons of water. He said the board has worked hard to stop the bleeding in terms of maintenance, but they are still short of money.
“We want to have a beautiful fairgrounds,” Paykoff said. “With a little bit of money, we can reduce a lot of our costs.”
“I’m not here for money. I’m not here for a loan,” Thomson said to the council members. “I want your signature on a piece of paper. I need your unwavering support to ensure the future of the Delaware County Fair.”
Thomson said he was currently drumming up support for the bed tax, and would make similar presentations with the Delaware County commissioners, townships and other groups.
Councilman Joe DiGenova said the city may be able to provide the fairgrounds with a grant or a revolving loan. He also said the fairgrounds could also offer more entertainment during the year.
Council members said they would have a formal resolution of support for the bed tax at their May 12 meeting.
If enacted, Delaware’s bed tax would be 9 percent, which Thomson said would still be lower than Franklin County’s 10 percent.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-363-1161 ext. 340 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.