Airport may be a questionable investment

Guest Commentary

Assuming the lease continues through 2018 under the same terms, the taxpayers will have provided over $8 million for operations plus the $22 million for a total of $30 million while receiving $700,000 in return.

Now, the Board of Supervisors recently approved a paving project relating to the proposed construction of additional hangers at a cost of nearly $250,000 — most of which will be reimbursed by FAA grants. Added to this $30 million sum is the county's contractual obligation to bring water, sewer and utilities to each new structure — 100 percent taxpayer funded and at an unknown cost.

Cited as indirect benefits of the expansion are sales tax collected, including fuel sales and restaurant revenues at the airport. Yet I estimate this amounts to no more than $15,000 per year, based on my research.

As far as the economic development benefits cited, I am not aware of any new business that located in this region because there is an airport. If there is, the question remains — would they have come anyway?

Now, consider the economic reality of the situation. As of Sept. 20, this airport is home base to 46 single-engine planes, one twin-engine craft, two jets and a helicopter — yet there are 100 aircraft registered in Warren County alone. Recent data reveals that 38 percent of air traffic is general aviation, 12 percent air taxi, 3 percent military and 47 percent transient.

Furthermore, official county records reveal that the airport, from mid-October through May, has very little traffic. Roughly 75 percent of all activity occurs in the summer months and peaks during the Saratoga race season which is likely redirected traffic from Saratoga Airport. Thus, our tax dollars are being spent to primarily accommodate overflow traffic from the Saratoga airport.

Couple that with Saratoga expanding their facility and the recent state Department of Transportation’s prediction that general-aviation airports will not see any enhanced aviation usage through 2025, and it’s evident that the Warren County airport could be left with a lifetime of legacy costs — and be facing a financial disaster.

I have arrived at my conclusion. What can conclusion do you draw from this? If you are concerned, contact the supervisor who represents you and discuss it!

Jonathan Mandewell, CPA


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