City agrees to kick in money for airport in 2005

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The Craig City Council agreed Tuesday night to contribute its share of running the Craig/Moffat County Airport.

The council has decided when to start contributing -- Jan. 1 -- but they won't know how much to contribute until deliberations begin on the 2005 budget.

Council members signed an operating agreement that makes them responsible for paying half the operating costs for the jointly owned airport. But, the agreement leaves the loophole -- for the city and the county -- to opt out if officials feel the money isn't there.

The loophole is the product of the 1992 Taxpayers Bill of Rights, which doesn't allow any elected body to financially commit a future board. Thus, any funding is subject to each council's annual budget.

The argument remains whether the city will appropriate the entire estimated $40,000 expense of running the airport next year to make up for not funding it this year, or whether it will contribute its agreed half, or $20,000.

The debate will be put on hold until October, when budget deliberations begin.

"I really think we need to look at this in year 2005," Councilor Don Jones said. "Sales tax revenue is still flat and this is unbudgeted."

For the past 12 years, the county has paid 100 percent of the costs of running the jointly owned facility. The expiration of a 20-year-old operating agreement gave the county the opportunity to equalize contributions to the airport.

The city and county entered into a joint ownership and operation agreement in 1983.

At that time, the city paid 40 percent of the costs of running the airport. In 1993, the county took over paying the entire cost.

The operating agreement expired Dec. 31 and the airport advisory board has worked since then to craft a new document.

The proposal makes the city and county equally responsible for the costs of running the airport -- with equal representation on the airport advisory board -- but gives the county control over operations maintenance and improvements.

The revenue earned from fees also would be split 50/50.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210 or at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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