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Hernando fair finances are priority, new president says

Fairgoers ride the wave swinger during the annual Hernando County Fair & Youth Livestock Show at the Hernando County Fairgrounds on April 4 in Brooksville. The fair has had decreasing revenues and had a $104,871 loss for the fiscal year that ran from June 2013 through May 2014.

KENT NISHIMURA | Times

Fairgoers ride the wave swinger during the annual Hernando County Fair & Youth Livestock Show at the Hernando County Fairgrounds on April 4 in Brooksville. The fair has had decreasing revenues and had a $104,871 loss for the fiscal year that ran from June 2013 through May 2014.

BROOKSVILLE — With some formidable challenges ahead, incoming Hernando County Fair Association President Shari Klimas says she is counting on the community, volunteers and board members to work together and come up with ideas on how to improve the organization's financial picture.

Klimas, who has been on the board for seven years, six as treasurer, said renewing the community's faith is key to propelling the fair association out of the financial doldrums that have led the organization to continue spending more money than it takes in each year. She wants the board to take a hard look at ways to save money and raise more revenue.

"We certainly want to work on attracting more sponsors," Klimas said. "But we could be looking at cutting budgets next year."

The association's financial picture, which was reviewed at its annual membership meeting last week, showed a $104,871 loss for the fiscal year that ran from June 2013 through May 2014.

Klimas said at least part of the loss was due to improvements made to the property over the past year. Additionally, revenue from the annual fair was less than expected. The event earned a profit of about $27,000.

"Our gate was up, but we didn't do as well as we had hoped on the midway," Klimas said. "It was a tough year."

Klimas was chosen by fellow board members to head the association, with outgoing President Robin McAndrew to serve as treasurer. In addition, longtime board members Andrew Williams and Teresa Voiles were elected vice president and secretary, respectively.

For the past several months, the fair association has faced increasing criticism about its leadership's handling of financial matters. In February, a four-page report prepared by a board investigative committee outlined concerns about what committee members called a "pattern of inefficiency" and a "lack of interoffice discipline" with regard to the daily affairs of the association.

Jim Gordon, who made up the investigative committee along with Voiles and board member Elliot Ambrose, said he had hoped that, in light of the association's dim financial picture, the board elections would have brought more sweeping changes.

"Considering our substantial financial issues, I was a bit disappointed we didn't go further in trying to bring in new blood," said Gordon. "I really wanted to see more people with strong organizational skills. That's what we're going to need if we want to turn things around quickly."

The association's financial situation is bound to get tighter this year after losing its winter tenant, North American Midway Entertainment, which has said it won't being renewing the rental contract for space where it performs offseason maintenance on its fair rides. The $40,000 it pays to the association amounts to about 17 percent of the association's annual revenue.

Klimas said she wants to encourage the board to collectively come up with an action plan on how best to right the association's finances.

"We have amazing people on the board who know how to get things done," she said. "We have a lot of work ahead of us, and I'm open for any good ideas."

Contact Logan Neill at lneill@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1435.

Hernando fair finances are priority, new president says 07/17/14 [Last modified: Thursday, July 17, 2014 9:12am]

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