The Jefferson County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday gave direction to county staff to work with the Open Space Department and nonprofits to preserve agricultural activities at the fairgrounds in the face of potential budget cuts.
The fairgrounds cost the county $1.8 million annually to operate, and the county previously identified $16.1 million in budget cuts for 2020. The sheriff’s office, for instance, has had to release inmates early due to a reduction of $3.2 million. Not all of the reductions were ongoing, and there will likely be another round of cuts for 2021.
Commissioners will decide later this year whether to continue fairgrounds operations. County residents spoke about the importance of maintaining youth, equine and agricultural activities, which constitute approximately 10% of the fairgrounds’ operations.
Budget reductions are due in large part to the failure of ballot measure 1A in November 2019. The proposal would have given the county a seven-year exemption from the revenue limitations of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. The county had planned to use the retained revenue to address infrastructure, upgrade technology and give more funding to the sheriff’s office.