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"Commissioners delve into Chico airport finances"

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Commissioners delve into Chico airport finances
The Chico (CA) Enterprise-Record

CHICO - While it's willing to do the work, the Chico Airport Commission has
made little progress pinpointing why the airport loses money every year, and
it might not be an easy answer. 

The commission has struggled to understand the airport budget and various
funds that make up the Chico Municipal Airport. 

"What's significant," city Finance Department accounting manager Frank
Fields told the commission, "is that there's nothing to cut." 

Fields explained the airport budget as commissioners see it doesn't portray
all airport expenses and revenue. Costs associated with some airport
expenses - like the airport fire station - are displayed in other accounts,
rather than the airport ones, although that will be changing. 

Fields said the airport does not support itself, and won't without extra
effort. He said in each of the last three years, the airport has lost money
from around $95,000 to $165,000. 

"There's no one item, one area that is losing money. It's just the overall
operations outpace the revenue," Fields told the commission last week. 

An ad hoc committee for the Airport Commission was formed to understand the
budget better, and asked for in-depth reports. 

Commissioners were concerned that at some point, the Chico City Council
couldn't afford to cover airport losses with General Fund money, and might
consider something dramatic. 

Airport revenue took a big hit when Aero Union moved to Sacramento. While it
paid some of the empty building leases for a while, it ultimately stopped. 

It's hard to say if Chico could find a business to replace Aero Union and
rent the buildings again, Fields noted. 

"The airport needs to take a huge look to find new revenue," Fields told the
commission, complimenting the commission on its efforts to revitalize the

Administrative Services Director Chris Constantin said the airport is an
asset to Chico, but as far as its numbers are concerned, "The numbers alone
can't tell you a root factor that's causing the situation." 

He noted litigation adds extra expense to the city as well. 

The ad hoc committee came up with several suggestions that would focus on
monitoring and understanding airport financial information more closely.
Constantin said his office will work on keeping commissioners apprised
monthly on finance items through emails, since the board meets quarterly. 

Commissioner BT Chapman suggested other airports get funds from cell
transmission towers and that Chico might investigate it. 

"It's descent revenue," he told fellow commissioners, "but will it clear the
deficit? No." 

Constantin noted the city gets revenue from one non-airport tower that
amounts to $40,000 to $45,000 annually. 

The airport generates other revenue through fuel sales, hangar space leases,
and concessions, among others. Commissioners also hoped that more air
passengers would use the airport because a portion of each ticket value goes
to the airport. 

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