Pittsfield Airport Study Group Looking to Balance Fee Changes
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Airport Study group is trying to find a balance between raising revenues to pay for operations while still remaining priced competitively.
The study group was formed by the request of three city councilors to take a deeper look at the airport's finances. The city has routinely budgeted about $100,000 each year to help the operations. Councilors Christopher Connell, Melissa Mazzeo, and Donna Todd Rivers called for the study to find ways to make it self-funding.
Former City Councilor Jonathan Lothrop sat on the study group and performed a financial analysis showing that even with long-term debt, the airport is only in the hole $84,800. That includes personal property taxes and commercial taxes that goes directly to the city's ledger — not to the airport commission's lines.
The group is now working out its final report which includes raising landing fees, hangar fees, fuel flowage fees, and other ways to increase revenue. Michael Lyon, who is the airport's fixed-based operator, however, warns that raising fees too high could drive away business.
"I want to help out and I recognize all the benefits this airport provides but there is a line," Lyon said on Monday.
Lyon Aviation runs both its own planes and manages them for others. Tom Sakshaug, who chaired the study group and is now a member of the Aiport Commission, said fees have already changed somewhat in that the planes Lyon now manages for other owners will be charged landing fee, when in the past those planes hadn't. That is expected to boost revenues in this fiscal year on its own.
Lyon says he is still interested in staying at the airport, but recognizes that he can move wherever. The more those fees pile up, the more they get passed onto customers, and if it goes too far, then he could lose business and opt to go elsewhere. He said the Pittsfield Municipal Airport already has the second highest landing fees in the state.
"It becomes a more of a disincentive to keep their planes here," Lyon said.
Connell tossed out the idea of the City Council adopting a local tax of 5 percent on fuel surcharge. Or not if all of the other airports are, giving an incentive for the city to raise landing fees but keeping the fuel surcharge low.
"The two go hand in hand — the fuel flowage fee and the surcharge. They have to be balanced," Sakshaug said.
Mazzeo agreed, "the last thing we want to see is to price ourselves out of the game."
Overall, the fees had been remaining mostly stable throughout the years when the massive renovation project was ongoing.
The airport might soon be seeing a boost in revenue anyway. Sakshaug said there is a large solar project in the works which would bring significant revenue.
"That will be, at least in theory, a significant revenue generator," he said.
Assistant Airport Manager Brian Spencer added that a new master plan is going to be crafted in the next fiscal year. That will be coupled with another airport runway paving project and set the operations up for future growth. Growth could come from leasing out land for companies to build hangars or other buildings. The city can also consider using some of that land to build new hangars and have even more planes stored there.
Spencer also said there is a new account for revenue from events. Wings, Wheels, and Warbirds brought in enough revenue to cover expenses as well as grow it into the future.
The group is expected to meet just one more time before the final report is released.
Tags: pittsfield airport,
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