Hayden Yampa Valley Regional Airport officials are planning $46 million in capital projects during the next decade.
Those projects are funded partly through contributions from the municipalities that reap the benefits of air service. Airport Manager Dave Ruppel laid out the importance of that money for the Hayden Town Council at a work session with the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Thursday.
Ruppel touted benefits, noting that 70 percent of winter vacation visitors come through YVRA and that more than 25 percent of the area's sales tax revenue can be attributed to the airport.
The town didn't contribute any sales tax cash back to YVRA this year. Town Manager Russ Martin acknowledged the benefits of the airport but said the town probably couldn't afford to pay in 2010, either.
"Our 2009 budget, much like our 2010 budget, is very much a zero-capital budget and a maintenance-only, operations budget," Martin said.
The town typically has contributed 10 percent of the sales tax from YVRA businesses back to the airport. The airport accounts for about half of Hayden's sales tax income.
The airport's next scheduled upgrade is the Phase 3 terminal expansion. That two-year improvement is expected to start next year, Ruppel said.
YVRA typically gets 95 percent of capital funding from the Federal Aviation Administration, 2.5 percent from the Colorado Department of Transportation and 2.5 percent from local governments.
The airport pays for its own day-to-day operations.
Martin suggested that the airport is an asset but also a cost. The town funds some road maintenance near YVRA and provides police services.
"We feel fortunate to have it, but it's also a reminder every day that we have an obligation to it," he said.
Ruppel, commissioners and
Martin also discussed the proposed car-rental sales tax. Hayden voters will decide Nov. 3 whether to add a 3.5 percent sales tax to car rentals. That would affect businesses almost exclusively at the airport.
The tax is expected to raise about $100,000 next year if implemented, according to forecasts from Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.
Ruppel said it was crucial to consider possible side effects. If the car-rental companies don't pass the tax to consumers, the airport might wind up paying.
"That $100,000 you're talking about has the potential to come directly out of my bottom line, so that's something to be aware of," Ruppel said.
Town staff members used the most recent ski season for initial estimates about how much money the tax would raise. Martin expected it to bring $140,000, and that's how the ballot language reads. The lower figure reflects expected traffic at YVRA.
Still, "$100,000 looks like a heck of a lot of money in the budget I'm looking at," Martin said.
Commissioners said they were sympathetic to Hayden's tight budget. The county also decreased its contribution to YVRA. Commissioner Doug Monger acknowledged that Martin took heat at a recent Airport Commission meeting. Some panel members alleged that not all Hayden residents appreciated what YVRA provides.
"We all know that the tourists in Steamboat Springs subsidize the residents hugely, and that happens here as well," Monger said.
Hayden officials need to educate residents about the benefits of the airport, he said.
Commissioners and council members also discussed a new road maintenance agreement. Staff members plan to review the memorandum of understanding that governs that deal, which hasn't been updated in a decade.
Commissioner Diane Mitsch
Bush also attended. Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak couldn't attend. Monger and Mitsch Bush said they'd like to sit down with the Town Council more often.
"I think it's really important to meet regularly because if you just meet when there's an issue, you don't get a real sense of each other," Mitsch Bush said.