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Archive for Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Fair board considering ways to deal with rising energy costs

September 20, 2006

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— With this year's Kansas State Fair just ended, officials already are discussing ways to reduce quickly rising utility costs before next year's fair.

Fair leaders said Monday they are considering several options for reducing the utility budget, including asking for more money from the Legislature, increasing rental prices for the fair's buildings and using alternative energy.

Fair Manager Denny Stoecklein said the State Fair Board wouldn't make any decisions about next year's budget until after an audit of this year's fair, which is expected to be completed in two to three weeks. The 2007 budget will be presented to the board in October.

"We're going to have to see how much of that increase we can pass on to the other users," Stoecklein said. "What we can't pass on, we'll try to absorb those expenses elsewhere in our budget."

Stoecklein said he didn't expect the fair's admission and ticket prices to increase and said fairgoers likely wouldn't notice most budget cuts.

In the past year, the fair spent between $180,000 and $190,000 on electricity and $40,000 on water. Next year, electricity costs are expected to increase by about $60,000 and water costs by about $6,800. The price of water is expected to increase in the next three years to absorb some costs of building a municipal water treatment plant in Hutchinson.

The fair operates on a budget of $4 million to $4.5 million, most of which is funded by proceeds from the 10-day fair.

"It's just like any business. We're a state agency, and we've got to watch our costs. We are concerned about them," said John Bottenberg, chairman of the State Fair Board.

But relying on fair attendance to cover expenses is risky because such factors as weather and gas prices can affect attendance, he said.

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