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Boone County fairgrounds tax is minimal compared with cost of maintenance

Sunday, March 17, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:17 p.m. CDT, Sunday, March 17, 2013

COLUMBIA — In October 2011, a half-cent sales tax was put in place at the Central Missouri Events Center, formerly known as the Boone County Fairgrounds, to generate money to pay for maintenance of a property plagued by leaky roofs, piles of horse manure and jagged stable floors.

Since then, the tax has yielded a total of $2,447.52 and remains in a fund that the Boone County Commission eventually will allocate to fairgrounds projects. That means taxable sales at fairground events since the tax took effect have been about $490,000.

During some months, such as March 2012, the sales tax produced no revenue, Boone County Auditor June Pitchford said. 

Each quarter, the Missouri Department of Revenue receives a list of all events held at the fairgrounds and the vendors who attended, Department of Revenue spokesman Ted Farnen wrote in an email. 

"Working with the center's coordinators, we also know which vendors actually ... sold merchandise," he said. "If we don't receive a submission from a vendor that sold merchandise at an event, we follow up with the vendor."

When vendors send tax returns to the state, they include the amount of sales tax collected, and the Department of Revenue returns it to the county. Vendors who fail to report sales tax are subject to fines and penalties, Farnen said. 

The large events that sell the most products include the R.K. Gun Show, the annual Automotive Swap Meet and consignment and craft shows, said Brent Gibson, who co-founded the fairgrounds management company, TAG Events.

Compared with the $200,000 the county spends each year on fairgrounds maintenance, the money raised from the sales tax is nothing, Gibson said. 

Gibson and Mike Teel, the other founder of TAG, have worked at the fairgrounds since October 2011 and have overseen extensive repairs and maintenance. Most of them have been quick fixes, such as repairing a roof and removing manure piles, rather than long-term projects.

"Our agreement with the county was to put a Band-Aid on things and gather information, get financial numbers together on the cost of ownership," Gibson said.

Sales tax revenue won't come close to paying for all the work the events center property needs, Northern District Commissioner Janet Thompson said.

“The sales tax is minuscule compared to what it costs to patch up on all of the repairs that should have been done for years," she said.

Thompson said the commission continues exploring how it might fund bigger projects at the events center. She supports a recreational sales tax on restaurants and hotels in the area that benefit from the events at the fairgrounds.

The fairgrounds have begun to show a profit under TAG Events' management. Last year, it had a total profit of $22,737.86.

Gibson said he and Teel have worked hard to make the fairgrounds financially sustainable by attracting new, more profitable events and by minimizing expenses. 

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.


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