The request was at the bottom of a list of funding requests made of the city by outside agencies. In the grand scheme of a multi-million dollar budget, $10,000 isn't much. The .087 mills to support it seems pretty minimal as well.
The commission looked at each request on the list — money for Health Ministries clinic, two requests for the Newton Area Chamber of Commerce, two for Grand Central and one from the Harvey County Free Fair. Each can be quite easily justified.
But the commission started to set some priorities, partly because the commission is looking at mill levy increase this year. As a result of that increase, they unanimously reached a consensus during a work session to not fund a request for a fireworks show at the Harvey County Free Fair in 2018.
One of Newton's most vocal opponents to tax increases, in turn, spoke out during the ensuing city meeting in support of the fireworks at the fair. He made some very valid points — like this display would be seen by likely 5,000 people at the fairgrounds on that night. That does not include others who would see it without heading to the fair. He also pointed out how much money the city makes each year from fireworks stands — $2,500 in fees per stand, plus sales taxes.
Very valid points. And we like the idea of a fireworks show returning to our fair city.
However, the city commission not adding the funding for that was and is the right move. Would fireworks be a great finale to the annual Demolition Derby and the fair? You bet. Does the fair bring people into Newton who spend money at Newton businesses? Yes again. The fair is an important event for this community.
But at this time, with budget cutting needed at the city and the commission openly questioning the business plans of Grand Central and validity of additional funding for the Chamber of Commerce, is not the time for the city to send cash up in smoke.
There may be other ways the city could support the fair, and that should be looked at and debated. If the fair board wants to add fireworks, they should look elsewhere to find the funding.
— Kansan Editorial Board