County Fairs Face Funding Loss (Again)
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has followed his father's lead - and that of his predecessor, David Paterson - in proposing to eliminate the state's contribution to county fair prizes.
The savings is small - about $340,000 amidst a $10 billion state deficit. The impact could be devestating to 4-H and Future Farmers of America fairs, according to Steve Harter, treasurer of the state Association of Agriculture Fairs.
Many exhibitors, he said, rely on prize money to offset the cost of transporting that cow, goat and sheep to the fair site.
"There are youth fairs in the state that will fold if they don't get this funding," said Harter, who is also secretary of the Jefferson County fair.
Paterson proposed removing $453,000 in premiums, or reimbursements paid to county fairs for prizes, from the 2009-10 state budget, only to see the Legislature restore it. Last year, the Legislature put back 75 percent of the funds after the governor proposed zeroing out the line again.
Locally, Jefferson and Lewis fairs stand to lose at least $6,500 each, while the Gouverneur & St. Lawrence County Fair would lose $13,000.
Don Peck, president of the Gouverneur Agricultural and Mechanical Society, said top exhibitors should be compensated. If the state money was lost, he said the group would make it up out of any profits from fair week.
"We're a not-for-profit and we don't make a lot of money," he said. "It would be very difficult for us to absorb a cut like that."
And with Cuomo proposing significant cuts to Medicaid, education aid and funding for municipalities, Harter said he's not confident the fair funds will be restored.
"I do believe everybody in New York state is going to share in this pain that we're going to have to go through," said Harter. "We're part of New York state. We just don't feel fairs should be cut out completely anymore than any other line item in the state budget should be cut out completely."
Bob Simpson, the Jefferson Fair president, said he'd try to find another revenue source if the state aid were lost this year. The fair doles out between $25,000 and $30,000 in prizes annually.
Harter said the state fair association has started lobbying state legislators to restore the funding. The effect of that effort won't be known until the budget is passed sometime this spring.
Sunday, February 14, 2016, Watertown, NY