Transfer of airport has become a fiasco

Published 2:01 am Saturday, May 31, 2008

By Staff
Plymouth might decide to retain ownership
Staff Writer
PLYMOUTH- The town of Plymouth’s decision whether to sell the Plymouth Municipal Airport to Washington County has come to a standstill on the runway.
At a Washington County Board of Commissioners public hearing Thursday night, Plymouth Mayor Brian Roth voiced his opinion on the proposed 2008-2009 budget and, in particular, on proposed funding for the airport.
Roth believes that if ownership of the airport is transferred from the town to the county, funds previously appropriated to the town by the county will be used to help run the airport.
The county used to appropriate sales taxes throughout the county based on population distribution, greatly benefiting Plymouth, which has the highest population density in the county.
Several years ago, the county voted to abolish the old sales tax system and implement the ad alorem tax, which is based on property values.
Even with the implementation of the ad valorem system, the county agreed to give it’s three municipalities, Plymouth, Creswell and Roper, half of what the towns would have received in the old system.
Sales taxes given to the towns each year were additional appropriations, according to Washington County Manager David Peoples.
In the county’s proposed 2008-2009 budget, the additional appropriations were taken out.
Plymouth would have received $74,000 in additional appropriations from the county.
Roth is convinced that the county is rescinding the appropriations because it needs to use the $74,000 to run the airport.
To say the sales tax is a condition of the airport “is a fruitless argument,” according to Peoples.
The sales tax was never specifically meant to fund the airport, Peoples said.
The county’s budget for the airport, according to the proposed 2008-2009 budget, is over $200,000, including capital improvements. Without said improvements, the budget is $90,000.
Roth insisted that the town could run the airport at a cost of $67,000 a year. He believes that if the town retains control of the airport and receives the $74,000 in sales taxes, the town would not lose money running the airport.
The only problem with Roth’s plan is that the additional appropriations will not be there regardless of whether the town keeps or sells the airport, Peoples said.
Peoples recommended that the Washington County Board of Commissioners hold off budgeting for the airport.
Then, if the airport came under the control of the county, the commissioners could do a special amendment, according to Peoples.
Even after such heated debate, Roth lobbied the county to help the town market the airport.
County Commissioner Billy Corey is convinced something needs to be done soon in regard to ownership of the airport.
The county originally gave the town an offer for the airport in December, and discussion has gone back and forth since.
At the town council’s last regular meeting, Roth claims the town council made a non-binding response to the county.
Roth traces the trouble with the airport back to the ad valorem tax system.