Debt weighs down airport

Commissioners see cash shortfall but it came quickly

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— Faced with a dwindling working capital fund for Yampa Valley Regional Airport, the Routt County Commission decided this week to transfer $421,000 from their general fund budget to keep the airport aloft.

Essentially, the commissioners made a "deposit" to keep the airport's "checking account balance" from coming perilously close to being overdrawn.

County Finance Director Dan Strnad said Friday he told the commissioners that when compared to its current operating budget of $5.1 million, the airport's projected balance in its working capital fund of $221,000 at year's end, is not workable. The working capital fund is actually less than $221,000 when you consider the county is not allowed to drain that fund lower than $120,000," Strnad said. That restriction is necessary to satisfy reserve requirements for bonded indebtedness the county has incurred at the airport.

Subtract another $90,000 to make up a shortfall for several small land purchases the county plans to make in the vicinity of the airport this year, and the working capital is really closer to $11,000.

"I can't run a $5 million budget on $11,000 of working capital," Strnad said. "We don't have a whole lot of cushion."

The transfer from the general fund was not unexpected it was planned for in the 2001 budget. But it comes months earlier than the commissioners would usually give the airport its annual infusion of cash. Typically, the commissioners would wait until the third or fourth quarter, to see if the airport could make it to the end of the year on less money. Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said the general fund transfer was precipitated by the land purchases, which were budgeted to cost $250,000 and wound up costing the county $340,000. The commissioners approved a "supplemental" expenditure to cover that amount. The commissioners received a forewarning in mid-March that they might need to make the fund transfer early. Airport Manager Jim Parker and Accounting Manager Margot Gasch informed them the capital fund was working its way toward zero from a high of $864,000 at the end of 1997. The fund has never been replenished, and projects at the airport have steadily reduced its balance. A significant portion of the working capital fund has gone to cover the county's 10 percent match of FAA grants during the last four to five years. This year, the county has budgeted $220,000 as a match to $2 million in apron improvements being funded by the FAA.

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