Saturday, November 30, 2013

Branson Airport (KBBG), Missouri: Airport payment OK’d

Branson aldermen voted 5-1 earlier this week to pass a bill on first reading to appropriate money from the tourism fund to pay a $261,000 Branson Airport pay-for-performance bill due Dec. 15.
In the past, the payment procedure has been a point of discussion and concern for the airport, and this most recent bill was no exception.

“The payment to the airport has always been under this cloud of uncertainty because the city has not properly budgeted for these payments,” said Branson Airport Executive Director Jeff Bourk. “In our opinion, this is no way to manage the city’s finances, and no way to run an airport.”

The pay-for-performance agreement, established in 2006 and re-written in 2010, instituted a $8.24 payment per passenger from the city to the airport for bringing tourists to the area.

The majority of the points made by those in favor of the city budgeting for the airport commented on the budget and not the whether the city would appropriate the funds when the bill was on an agenda.

Since the agreement was established, the city has paid $1.8 million to the airport, not missing a payment.

Despite the commentary from Bourk and other citizens urging the city to include the airport payments in the 2014 budget, the board passed the bill without an amendment. The board also passed a bill immediately after approving the appropriation for the $261,000 payment to the airport using tourism tax funds.

The tourism tax is generated from hotels, motels, condominiums, timeshares, food and drinks, and tickets for admission or participation for attractions or shows inside city limits. Three-quarters of the money is used for infrastructure, while the remaining 25 percent of the money is dedicated for marketing.

In the past, the infrastructure portion of the tourism tax has been used on sidewalks and trails, road projects, major water and sewer capital improvements and the Missouri 248/U.S. 65 interchange.

The city’s position on the airport payments has been and remains to be one of consideration upon billing. Alderman Mike Booth elaborated on his thought process.

“In the past, the reason it hasn’t been in the budget is because it has been subject to appropriation and if we had an instances where we couldn’t pay it, we wouldn’t have paid it,” Booth said. “But we’ve done everything we could to find places to pay it from.

“‘Subject to appropriation’ is still there, and I’m not saying that in the future it will never ever be in a budget, but in times where our budget is this tight, I don’t know that you’re going to see it in the budget in 2014.

“Does it mean it’s not going to be paid? It doesn’t mean that at all. But it does mean that if we have to watch how much money we have, if we’re not giving our employees a pay raise, if we’re not buying some of the capital items that we have, does that mean that we’re concerned about how much income and expenses that we’re going to have in our city, the answer is, ‘Yes, we are.’”

Alderman Rick Todd expressed his distaste for the negativity and criticism from the airport, considering the city has made every payment.

The lone vote against the appropriation was from Alderman Rick Davis, who opposes the legal opinion that money from the infrastructure portion of the tourism fund may be used to pay for a project outside city limits.

The final reading of the bill for the appropriation of money for the $261,000 Branson Airport pay-for-performance bill is Dec. 10.