MAHONING COUNTY Transfer of cash to run airport likely to be last

The money is left over from last year's allocation for capital improvements.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County commissioners were to vote today on handing over $52,000 to the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.
But commissioners say the cupboard looks bare when it comes to future airport funding.
"We've made it pretty clear to the airport board that we're just not sure what our options will be after this," said Commissioner Vicki Allen Sherlock. "At this point, it does not look good."
Mahoning and Trumbull counties contribute money annually to the Western Reserve Port Authority for operation of the airport, which is in Trumbull County. The counties contribute equal shares.
At the beginning of this year, the port authority still had about $131,000 of Mahoning County's 2001 funding allocation. The money had been set aside for capital improvement projects at the airport, but it was not used.
In January, commissioners allowed the port authority to convert $78,750 of the unused money for general operating expenses. The $52,319 on today's agenda is also from that leftover money, said Commissioner Ed Reese.
Here's the situation
The two contributions combined still come up far short of the $315,000 the port authority had requested from each county to operate this year. Sherlock said it's not likely that Mahoning County will be able to come up with any more money this year.
"That's definitely going to have an impact on the day-to-day operation of the airport," she said.
The airport is one of several discretionary projects funded by commissioners each year. But in the county's current financial condition, commissioners can't commit to sending any more money this year or next year, Reese and Sherlock said.
Voters rejected a 0.5 percent sales tax renewal in May. The tax -- one of two on the books in Mahoning County -- brings in about $12 million a year, or about 25 percent of the county's operating revenue.
Without that revenue, commissioners said many of the discretionary programs probably will be cut.
What's ahead
Commissioners plan to seek renewal of the tax again in November, but Reese said for now they must budget as if they won't have that money available.
"It's discouraging," Reese said. "We can only budget until the end of the year because as of right now, we won't have that tax."
The tax expires at the end of this year. The other tax expires in December 2004 and brings in an equal amount of revenue.
Thomas P. Nolan, airport director of aviation, said the port authority requests only what it needs to operate the airport efficiently. Any loss of funding will hurt, though the board is grateful for any funding from either county, he said.

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