A measure that could boost the financial fortunes of the Delaware County Fair remains in the version of the state’s two-year budget approved last week by the Ohio Senate Finance Committee.
The proposal would create a pilot program in which county fairs that host a harness race with a one-day attendance of at least 40,000 would be eligible to levy and collect a portion of lodging taxes with voter approval.
If approved, the lodging tax of up to 3 percent could be levied for a period of five years.
The ballot measure would need to be approved by county commissioners.
Chip Thomson, president of the Delaware County Agricultural Society, has said in the past that the added revenue would allow for improvements at the fairgrounds to ensure the famed Little Brown Jug remains a staple at the Delaware County Fair.
Thomson has said the needs at the fairgrounds “run so deep.”
A project to replace aging water lines at the fairgrounds was recently completed, through a partnership with Delaware County, which provided the funding, and the city of Delaware, which provided the labor.
Before the repairs were made, water bills at the fairgrounds reached nearly $13,000 in a single month, even with the water shut off throughout the night.
State Rep. Margaret Ann Ruhl, R-Mount Vernon, said she supports the proposal.
She said she believes it has a chance to be included in the final version of the budget, which will be negotiated between the House and Senate, which each have their own versions of the two-year spending outline, because it requires voter approval.
“If it would have just been in there to implement it or allow the commissioners to put it on, I don’t think it would stay,” she said.
Thomson has said the added funding would be a good investment for the county.
A 2008 study by Ohio Wesleyan University found that the fair generated $4.1 million in expenditures in Delaware County and $6.7 million across the central Ohio region.
The proposal was first introduced by State Rep. Andrew Brenner, R-Powell.