With a number of lingering questions on revenue and funding levels at the Metro-owned fairgrounds, Mayor Karl Dean agreed to effectively delay budget conversations with fairgrounds officials until operations are clearer.
Tennessee State Fair Executive Director Buck Dozier and fair board chair James Weaver sat across from Dean and members of his administration Monday to hold what was supposed to be a hearing to discuss budget requirements for the fairgrounds. Dean is meeting with department heads all week in preparation for the spring unveiling of a proposed budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year.
But both parties quickly agreed numbers are still too vague to begin substantive conversations. Namely, the fair board next week is set to consider two proposals to hold racing events at the fairgrounds speedway, and vote on three proposals from groups vying to hold the annual state fair. The fair board meeting is Tuesday, April 5.
“There are some unanswered questions that would affect our budget,” said Dozier, who made the initial request to postpone budget conversations. “The answers to these questions won’t come until our next board meeting.”
Dean, whose attempt to pursue redevelopment opportunities at the 117-acre fairgrounds stalled earlier this year, called Dozier’s request for a delay “fair enough.”
“I think we just wait to get these numbers,” Dean said.
Funding uncertainties also stem from the fair board’s recent decision to hire an outside consultant to study the possibility of raising rates charged to vendors to use the fairgrounds’ expo center.
Dozier, who said current rates aren’t covering costs in the corporate sales area, believes the study should conclude within eight to 12 weeks.