Ag Hall staff let go as budget remains in crisis
Staff members at the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame are being released from their positions at the end of the month as the center tries to navigate its way through a financial crisis.
The center’s board of governors voted Monday to release the center’s three full-time staff members, including chief executive officer Tim Daugherty, at the close of business Nov. 30.
Frank VanFleet, newly elected as chairman of the board of governors at Monday’s meeting, said personnel moves were necessary because, simply enough, there isn’t enough money in the bank to continue to pay the employees.
“It’s just a matter of being short on funds,” VanFleet said. “We don’t have the money to pay a full-time staff right now.”
The center’s final day of operation will be Nov. 30, after which it will close for the winter season. At that time all staff members will be released from their positions. It is still unclear, VanFleet said, whether the job losses would be permanent.
“Well, we don’t know for sure,” he said. “We didn’t tell them definitely that they couldn’t come back. It’s going to depend on the amount of money we can raise (during the winter season).”
The Ag Hall of Fame is set to reopen in March for the 2010 season. During the interim, a committee of volunteers, headed by board of governors member Cathi Hahner, will take care of operations at the center.
Though some of the staff may find positions waiting for them when the hall reopens, Daugherty said he didn’t plan on coming back. His comments regarding a now-uncertain career path revealed no hard feelings for those running the hall.
“One of the things that I think is very important in this process is that we’re very positive about the ag center moving forward, and we wish them the very best as we open this new chapter,” he said.
Hahner said paying the staff each month cost a little over $20,000. Federal tax forms filed annually by the hall to maintain its nonprofit status show Daugherty’s annual salary was $120,000, the lion’s share of the center’s monthly payroll expense. Hahner said the staff layoffs would save the Ag Hall about $80,000 over the winter season.
The executive session in which the personnel decision was made followed an open meeting of the board of governors in which a new directorial board was elected. Three former members of the board of directors will take up their positions again after the entire directorial board resigned Nov. 12.
Dale Warman, Howard Miller and Phil Manson were all re-elected to the directorial board during the board of governors meeting. Those elected will serve on the interim board of directors until a permanent board is elected during the next annual meeting of the board of governors in the spring of 2010.
Warman, who resigned his position on the board of directors in April, was elected as board president. He has served on the board of governors for about 10 years. Also elected were Dennis Landis, vice president, Amy O’Rourke, treasurer, Steve Tuttle, Joe Steineger, Lyn Spring and Hahner.
The hall’s financial outlook threatens its long-term existence.
“I think there’s some challenges ahead of us, but I think the risks to fail are too high,” Warman said. “We don’t want to fail; it’s too important a place to the community and to the members of agriculture to fail, so we are setting a course to succeed in our operations.”
Warman said the next step when the center closes for the winter season would be to focus on finding any and all available sources of revenue. He mentioned working closely with the Kansas Farm Bureau specifically, but said any financial options that could save the Ag Hall would be worth considering.
“What we want to do in essence is to continue to keep (the Ag Hall of Fame) as an entity out here,” Warman said.
VanFleet, president of the Wyandotte County Farm Bureau, will fill the position of governing board chairman, which was left vacant by Bob Carlson, Lenexa, who resigned from both the governing and directorial boards Nov. 12.
After the meeting, VanFleet talked about the elections as being a step in the right direction for the Ag Hall. From now on, he said, the focus would remain on the future, not the past.
“We’ve got a lot of challenges ahead of us, but there’s nothing we can’t overcome,” VanFleet said.
Members of the Ag Hall’s board of directors are elected members of the board of governors, and handle the daily operations of the hall.
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