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Flood watch issued December 20, 2014

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Pendleton Round-Up struggles over tax bill

PENDLETON (AP) — Despite revenue of more than $3 million last year from Oregon’s signature rodeo, the Pendleton Round-Up is struggling to cover its property tax bill.

The Round-Up Association expects to fall at least $50,000 short of its November payment, which was $110,900 in 2012, the East Oregonian reported.

“In six of the last nine years, the Pendleton Round-Up hasn’t made $100,000,” said Tim Hawkins, board president. “Rodeo is an expensive event to put on. Although we take in a lot, we spend a lot of money to put on this event.”

The Round-Up took over the rodeo grounds from the city in 2009 because it needed collateral for a bank loan to renovate the grandstands. But it has since struggled to cover its property taxes. A state tax court rejected its plea for an exemption.

The Round-Up spends about $500,000 a year for its four office employees and one maintenance worker. It pays contestants $272,000 a year in prizes. Payments on the grandstand project loan increased this year from about $660,000 to nearly $1 million.

Round-Up board members receive no payment. Hawkins said they cover expenses to travel and attend other rodeos on their own.

The city’s share of the Round-Up property taxes would cover the shortfall, and the board plans to ask the?City Council for help in June.

“I don’t know exactly what they’re wanting the city to do except for maybe write them a check,” Mayor Phillip Houk said. “We’re not offering money to anybody because we don’t really have it, but I guess we need to hear what their plea is ... and based on that consider whether we can do anything.”

The Round-Up could shore up funds by cutting programs such as its $9,000 in scholarship awards, or raising ticket prices — which range from $15-$45 for rodeo events.

Hawkins said the Round-Up would rather take out a loan, and he said he’s confident about a solution.

“That’s the Round-Up board’s goal — to make this run for another 100 years,” Hawkins said. “And we’ll find a way to do it with our partner, the city. Round-Up has been a huge part of Pendleton’s past, and is going to be a huge part of Pendleton’s future.”

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