7/9/2014 6:00:00 AM Airport faces shortfall due to economy
By STEVEN THOMAS Staff Reporter
Facing a downturn in fuel revenues, the Philadelphia Municipal Airport budget was bumped up by $2,000 a month to help cover utilities and maintenance.
The Mayor and Board of Aldermen approved the increase June 17 at the request of airport officials.
Two members of the airport board, Mike Tinsley and Brent Gray, asked aldermen for the additional funds which were not budgeted for fiscal 2014, saying it was necessary for the airport to remain open through September.
City Clerk James Johnson said the airport budget was seeing a shortfall in revenue this fiscal year.
"The airport makes money off of fuel usage," he said. "Not that many people have been stopping there."
Gray added that with the downturn in the economy beginning in 2009, the airport board started to see a drop-off in the number of flights stopping in Philadelphia.
Prior to that, we had more income coming in than we were spending, he said.
"Since 2009, it's been getting lower until we kind of ran out of the extra funds," Gray said.
Ward 1 Alderman Josh Gamblin asked if there was any way the airport board could make it through September, when fiscal 2014 ends for the city.
"Not unless you want to pay an overdraft fee," Tinsley said, in asking for an additional $2,000 a month until the next fiscal year starts in October.
Gray said that the airport board hopes when the renovations at Pearl River Resort get underway they would see an uptick in usage at the airport.
Both Mayor James Young and Ward 4 alderman Cecil Nichols supported the measure, saying the airport was needed for Philadelphia to prosper.
Johnson said the $2,000 would take not care of the entire shortfall, only the basics like utilities and maintenance.
The motion was unanimously approved.
The increase for the airport would cost the city about $6,000 during fiscal year 2014.
Despite the non-budgeted monies for the airport, Johnson expects the city to end the fiscal year on Sept. 30 "in the black."
"I couldn't tell you the amount, but we are going to be in the black this year because of the millage increase," Johnson said. "That is how it is looking as of right now."
Aldermen voted 3-2 last year to increase the city's tax rate from 10 to 20 mills to fund the city's general fund budget of $7.4 million for fiscal 2014, following a near $500,000 shortfall the previous year.
Aldermen said the millage increase was necessary in order to close six consecutive years of deficit spending.
The tax increase was expected to generate about $565,000 for fiscal 2014. In addition, the city's general fund has seen an additional $247,000 in sales tax collections since July 1, 2013. June 2014 totals have not been released by the state Department of Revenue.
The city's shortfalls have totaled more than $6 million over the last decade.
In other action, aldermen:
Approved Waggoner Engineering as the firm for a $150,000 Small Municipality grant application.
Approved a parade route for the Philadelphia Coalition in conjunction with the 50th Commemoration of the murders of three civil rights workers here in 1964.
Allowed the Philadelphia Fire Department to enter into a Hot Spot program.