Lewiston Airport Seeks Help from City,
by Elaine Williams
Taxpayers may be asked to spend more than $300,000 to subsidize the struggling Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport in its coming fiscal year.
Figures in a draft budget the airport authority board reviewed Thursday showed Nez Perce County and the city of Lewiston, which own the airport, contributing $143,000 each to the operating budget that starts Oct. 1. Both jurisdictions also would be asked to give an additional $30,000 to the airport capital budget.
"I tried to make this as realistic and transparent as possible," said Airport Manager Stephanie Morgan. The board spent 21/2 hours reviewing the proposal without discussing any significant cuts in expenses. Minus the proposed public dollars, revenue for the operating budget is forecast at about $650,000, compared with expenses of almost $940,000.
In contrast, this year's airport operating budget is $830,000, and it includes $47,000 each from the city and county.
The board didn't focus on why it's going to be costing the airport more to operate in a year when it is losing more than half of its commercial passenger flights.
Horizon Air's service to Seattle and Boise is ending later this month. Airport operations revenue is expected to drop by more than $150,000 compared with what was originally projected.
Horizon carries about 60 percent of the passengers who use the Lewiston airport, with the remainder going on SkyWest's Salt Lake City flights.
The airport will no longer be receiving $55,000 in landing fees from Horizon, as well as almost $18,000 Horizon paid to lease space at the airport.
Fees from car rental businesses Hertz, Avis/Budget and Enterprise are predicted to drop by about $60,000 because they are based mostly on the number of days vehicles are rented from the Lewiston airport.
Board members are scheduled to meet again Monday and to continue looking at the numbers. They have requested more details about employee compensation, including a summary of how much each employee earns and what their responsibilities are.
It was presented as a lump sum of $530,000 in the draft budget, which doesn't indicate how many employees the airport has. The loss of Horizon isn't the only uncertainty the airport faces in the coming year. A new operations building is scheduled to debut Jan. 1.
It will house a new fire truck, snow removal equipment and administration offices. The airport's fire truck is now at a nearby city of Lewiston fire station. Administration offices are in the terminal and snow removal equipment is stored elsewhere at the airport.
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