By Conrad Dudderar
EL RENO – Canadian County’s new Expo & Event Center has been busy since opening this summer with a variety of special events.
This has been highlighted by the 67th annual county fair Aug. 23-28 that attracted record crowds totaling about 20,000.
Then why, some Canadian County residents are asking, did Canadian County Commissioners have to transfer $75,000 from the county reserve fund to cover expenses at the center?
Commissioners on Oct. 11 approved this transfer to pay operational costs until Canadian County’s fiscal year 2022 budget takes effect around Nov. 1.
Like the federal government, county governments act each year on a continuing resolution until their general fund budget process is finalized.
Statute allows counties like Canadian to fund each department at 50% of its previous year’s budget until the annual county budget is complete, according to District 2 County Commissioner Dave Anderson.
Canadian County’s expo and event center in FY21 did not have a budget, so Anderson said the $75,000 had to be moved from the free fair account to cover those expenses for several weeks.
“Then we will allocate 100% of the budget for the year,” he said. “Then the expo center (account) will have plenty of money to reimburse the ‘loan’ that it took from the reserves. Those dollars are coming back.”
Anderson was asked whether the large transfer was done because the new expo and event center is not able to cashflow.
“No, we’re moving money because of the way county governments are structured,” he replied. “You only get half of your prior year’s budget until this year’s budget process is finalized.
“It’s a really complex process.”
The proposed FY22 Canadian County budget shows about $709,000 for the expo & event center.
One hundred percent will be funded by ad valorem tax revenues.
NOT TO ‘MAKE MONEY’
The Canadian County Expo & Event Center opened in early July at 3001 Jensen Road East just south of Interstate 40.
The multi-use facility features a 19,000 square foot event center, 46,000 square foot indoor arena, 19,000 square foot open-air pavilion, and some 15,000 square feet of office space.
The purpose of building this multi-million county fairgrounds’ complex was not to “make money”, Anderson emphasized, although the funds it does generate is important to help cover operational costs.
“Its purpose was to provide an economic impact to our community and provide a better facility for our livestock community to show in,” he said. “We’re not going to make money with that. It’s going to cost. It always had. Our other fairgrounds (on North Country Club Road) didn’t make money.
“We’ve always budgeted money out of our general fund to cover the fair, livestock shows and upkeep on our fairgrounds.”
Canadian County Fair Board Secretary Brad Tipton estimated the recent county fair generated $500,000 in economic development based on hotel stays, rodeo ticket sales, carnival ticket sales, and concessions.
This year’s fair attendance doubled the previous high at the former fairgrounds’ site, Tipton added.
REVENUES SET ASIDE
Canadian County officials really don’t know how much revenue the expo & event center will generate through rentals to help cover costs, Commissioner Anderson acknowledged.
The center has been booked steadily with events, shows and other programs since its mid-summer debut.
“We have decided to take all of the revenue that the facility generates this year and set it in an account,” Anderson explained. “We will not spend any of it until next year’s budget cycle. We’re not tapping the revenue that it’s generating currently to help operate it.”
County officials plan to use the prior budget year’s revenues to help fund the next year’s operation.
“Let’s say next year’s budget (for the expo center) is $800,000 and the facility generated $200,000 last year,” Anderson added. “We would use that $200,000 first and put $600,000 with it of county general fund dollars.”
Canadian County’s use tax revenues are being used to pay the construction debt incurred to build the new multi-use facility. Lingo Construction oversaw construction of the $15.2 million first phase.