New department creates fairgrounds budget mishap

By: 
JENNY GESSAMAN
Reporter
Fergus County’s centralization of county property maintenance may have led to a budget overage for the Fergus County Fairgrounds, according to Office and Grounds Administrator Faith Robertson. At the Fair Board’s September meeting, she reported the facility was possibly thousands of dollars over budget.

The possibility was brought up during the meeting’s financial report.

“The other issue that I noted when I looked at the budget as it was approved was that our staff was cut way, way back,” Robertson said. “Part of that is there is a transfer at this point in time.”

She was referring to the creation of the new Fergus County Facilities and Maintenance Department, approved this fiscal year by county commissioners to make county facility management more efficient.

The fiscal year runs from June 30 to June 30, or across two calendar years. With the Central Montana Fair held in July. Robertson hired temporary staff to help with the summer’s extra workload. She did so assuming commissioners would approve those costs, which, until the creation of the new department, were an annual occurrence. Then the new department, and new budget were approved in September.

“In the transition, I think we’re missing some wages that were just dropped out,” she said.

Candi Zion, member of the Fergus County Fair Board and its Finance Committee, was not worried after the meeting.

“Right now, we’re having a shortfall of money,” she said. “I think it was just an oversight. I have confidence the commissioners will make sure and correct it.”

The Fergus County Commissioners said if there were a shortfall, they would be comfortable covering it with a budget amendment.

“Rana will look at the budget, and if she deems that we’re going to be over, we’ll go back and look over the budget,” Commissioner Carl Seilstad said.

Commissioners bring the amendment to a monthly meeting, opening it for public discussion, and then vote, according to Seilstad.

Clerk and Recorder Rana Wichman clarified.

“If the budget goes over because of labor for the 2017 Central Montana Fair, they’ll do an amendment to cover it,” she said.

Although the Fairgrounds budget may be a bump in the road as Fergus County transitions to centralized maintenance, Commissioner Ross Butcher thinks it’s a small one.

“We’re excited about the department being more flexible, providing coverage throughout the county, and being a more efficient use of personnel,” he said.


In other business
• The Fergus County Fair Board approved a total of $41,186.15 in claims.

• Angie Davidson approached the Fergus County Fair Board about managing next year’s fair-time gazebo entertainment, as well as hosting bingo again. Chair Brett Maxwell said Davidson could start working with Fergus County Fairgrounds Office and Grounds Administrator Faith Robertson on entertainment, but that she needed to bring an official bingo proposal to the Board.

• The Fergus County Fair Board heard four refund requests for the 2017 Central Montana Fair. The Board voted to partially or fully refund two requests, and denied the other two.

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