Santa Maria Airport still Operating in the Red

With a continued decline in revenues from a slowdown in passengers and fewer landings at Santa Maria Public Airport, the agency that runs the facility has again dipped into reserves to cover its deficit for the coming fiscal year.

Taking into account operating revenues and expenses plus non-operating revenues and expenses, and all capital projects and improvements, the overall deficit is $280,004 for the 2010-11 budget year, which begins Thursday, Airport General Manager Chris Hastert said.

Overall, Hastert said he is pleased with the work done by airport staff to create the budget.  “I feel like we did a good job in getting this together …,” Hastert said.

Total operating revenues are estimated at $3.3 million with total operating expenses, excluding depreciation, of $3.6 million, according to the budget.

Almost half of the operational spending, about $1.7 million, is salaries, contract staff, security and Aircraft Rescue Firefighting (ARFF) services mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration.  The airport contracts with the Santa Maria police and fire departments for security and ARFF, respectively.

Approved by a 4-1 vote Thursday by the airport district’s board of directors, the budget includes increased spending on maintenance in a move to be proactive, rather than reactive, to upkeep of the facility, Hastert said.

Directors Carl Engel, Chuck Adams, Hugh Rafferty and Ted Eckert voted in favor with Charles Damiano dissenting because of items on the capital budget he believed shouldn’t have been there and were not safety related.

Also, more money is going toward local marketing of the airport through TV, print, and radio advertising and working with an aviation consulting services firm to attract a new airline to the airport.  The ultimate hope is to draw more passengers and create more revenues, Hastert said.

With slower passenger traffic in the terminal because of the recession, rental car revenues to the airport also have dropped.

Terminal revenues — (TSA) lease, restaurant, airlines, car rental percentage rent — are expected to come in at an $884,136 loss.

The most significant source of operating income, $634,637 or 40%, is non-aviation revenue-generating land — the Airport Business Park, Radisson hotel, mobile-home park, Sunset Ridge Golf Course and 603 acres of leased farm land.

To generate more revenues, the board has raised hangar rents by an average of 11.8% to be spread out over two years in six-month increments.

Proposed capital projects are budgeted at $5.8 million of which the airport is on the hook for $1.6 million.

Most of the capital costs are for a long-awaited runway extension project.  It will be built in two phases across two federal budget years as the majority of the project, 95%, will be covered by a FAA Airport Improvement Plan grant.

The first phase of the runway development includes infrastructure improvements such as electrical conduit and a taxiway extension.  Hastert said the airport expects to put the initial runway project out for bid as soon as Thursday. Work could begin in September or October.  Budgeted at $4.5 million, $4.2 million of phase one will be paid by the FAA grant, while the district cost for phase one is $222,700.

Phase two, runway paving and relocation of navigational aids for the Instrument Landing System, is expected to cost about $8 million. It will also be funded mostly by the FAA.

Airport officials have promoted the longer runway as a draw for larger commercial and private planes, and longer corporate jet flights, such as nonstops to Japan or Europe.   

Other significant capital projects include:

  • $270,000 for new roofs on three buildings.
  • $126,123 for reconfiguration and replacement of the terminal building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.
  • $100,000 for main hangar renovations.
  • $100,000 for design of car-wash facility for rental cars.
  • $100,000 for asphalt rehabilitation.

 Posted in Local on Monday, June 28, 2010   12:00 am