Thursday, February 09, 2012

Airport authority finances getting a closer look

Jackson County Manager Kevin Poe is examining the status of the airport authority’s decision to enter into an agreement with a fixed base operator.

The agreement puts Spirit Aviation in charge of business operations of the airport, and that has some scratching their heads about the soundness of the decision from a financial standpoint.

On the county website is the announcement that “The Jackson County Airport Authority is pleased to announce that Spirit Aviation has taken over as the FBO at the airport.”

However, Poe is now examining the negative financial impact of that decision.

“We are redoing the budget,” Poe said last week as work was under way to see the scope of the financial hit anticipated since the FBO contract means the authority will be receiving 2 percent of gross fuel sales. “We have to determine the negative on the county to what level.”

Poe said he hopes the authority can make a cooperative effort with staff to get more information. He said Greg Garner was new as airport manager and the FBO process was already in action before he arrived. “He is still learning the ropes,” said Poe.

Looking at the financial aspects of the situation, Poe said the authority owes the county roughly $1 million for operating funds as well as the short-term loan provided up to $500,000 for the corporate T-hangar development on the airport’s west side. With $430,000 spend, not a penny has been repaid, Poe notes.

With more than a million and a half owed, some of those funds are expected to come back to the county at some point in reimbursements from state and federal dollars. However, for now, that amount plus the subsidy of $20,000 to $25,000 provided annually for the airport manager and associated costs of operations is giving a closer look.

While operation of an airport is often at a loss, the loss of fuel revenues is a concern.

Beyond the financial examination, what else has been happening at the airport in recent weeks has a close eye on what could be the future direction of the airport authority. With the turmoil, the possibility that legislation to alter or do away with the authority could be pursued.

Poe said to the best of his knowledge the authority’s FBO decision was not made with input from county staff. The Request for Proposal was original developed with county staff input but the evaluation of the resulting submissions nor the decision to go with Spirit Aviation’s proposal was not. Poe said he was unaware of any report developed on the FBO move which would show the positives.

“I am concerned with the negative impact will be,” said Poe,.

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