By Bud Taylor
Warren County airport has been the topic of recent discussion by members of a small local Political Action Committee. It is essential to understand the history of the airport and to put it into context before criticizing the actions of Warren County Board of Supervisors. It is also important to understand decisions made today are based not only on that history, but also on consideration of past expenditures and grant commitments, as well as current conditions and future economic development.
The airport was created in 1940 as part of a defense system in the event an invasion was to occur on the Atlantic seaboard. Warren County agreed to maintain the field and all improvements and equipment that might be constructed or installed with federal aid. The federal government planned to spend $500,000 for construction and Army Corps of Engineers designed the airport. Today, the airport is part of a National Plan of Integrated Airports (NPIAS) the FAA feels is an important part of safe aviation.
So, our airport is not one the board of supervisors has created, but it is our responsibility to manage it and make it as efficient as possible.
Today, this facility is valued at approximately $15 million based on its assessment. Some people wrongly argue any expansion or development of the airport is a waste of taxpayer money. Everyone should know not one penny of your property tax, sales tax or income tax is used to fund our FAA grants. The airport and Airway Trust Fund is funded from user fees on ticket sales, aviation fuel and aviation cargo transportation.
Another school of thought is economic development is critically needed in the region and the airport could be a significant factor in the success of such development.
We should applaud the current airport operation. The lion’s share of cost over the years has been in the form of FAA grants. These grants are funded by user fees and do not increase property taxes. The airport is responsible for $480,000 of long-term debt, which is only about 1 percent of the county’s $39,699,314 of debt. We are nearing the end of implementing short- and intermediate-term master plan projects shaped by the FAA, local professional engineers, several airport managers, Warren County EDC, several boards of supervisors and professional engineering studies. All meetings concerning airport planning, as well as the master plan, were conducted in open session and were publicly announced. Now, a small group of people have decided to question all the board’s decisions.
A recent letter to the editor stated total taxpayer funding through 2018 would be $29,970,000. This is not an accurate statement. Taxpayer funding is based on budgets, not master plans. Most FAA grants require the county pay 5 percent of total project cost. The letter also went on to say projected revenue and fees through 2018 would be $850,000. No mention was made of economic impact to the region. A 2010 technical report by New York’s Department of Transportation determined the economic impact for the airport was $8.3 million annually, supporting 53 jobs. Not bad for a small regional facility.
A tremendous amount of time and energy has been spent by the advocate group in an effort to discredit the members of the board of supervisors. An equal amount of time has been expended by the board to respond to questions or bring the group up to speed. It has always been my experience that progress is made through cooperation and creating solutions beneficial to everyone.
There is no argument, we should reduce cost in all county operations. The trick is to reduce cost smartly. Let’s support the growth of this area resource. Should we continue to make the airport more efficient and reduce cost? Absolutely, and we should do this as a cohesive unit working toward a shared goal.
A good plan properly implemented will lead us to the ultimate solution of reducing cost and enhancing economic development of this taxpayer asset.
Bud Taylor is a Warren County supervisor representing the Third Ward in Glens Falls.