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MAHONING VALLEY Airport is facing shortfall



Published: Thu, September 30, 2004 @ 12:00 a.m.



This is the third year the port authority will come up short.

By STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

VIENNA -- The Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport will likely end the year more than $100,000 in the red, officials say.

The exact amount of the budget shortfall is not yet known, said Bill Reali, chairman of the Western Reserve Port Authority board, which runs the airport. He warned the board of the projected deficit at a meeting Wednesday.

"We are running quite a bit behind," he told the board.

To weather the end-of-year deficit -- a regular occurrence for the port authority over the last three years -- officials will likely shift some of this year's expenses into next year's budget, said interim airport director Steve Bowser. The airport runs on a $1.3 million annual budget.

Bowser said the deficit will likely be "in the six figures."

The projected shortfall comes despite the creation of a steady source of revenue to support the port authority in 2004. Trumbull and Mahoning counties have each earmarked revenue from a tax on hotel rooms for the authority, amounting to about $600,000 a year, Bowser said.

What happened

But this year, the airport had a wild ride. Two development deals the airport had counted on evaporated, a new airline came and went and a miscalculation resulted in an overestimation of how much money the room tax would bring, officials said.

The port authority's 2004 budget did not anticipate that it would land the flights from Vacation Express, which triggered the authority to spend $135,000 on marketing, Bowser said.

When the flights ended this month, it also put an end to parking lot fees that had been netting as much as $10,000 a month, he said.

The collapse of deals to rent airport land to National Marine and developer Brian Ross represented a loss of about $135,000 in anticipated revenue, he said.

Revenue is also less than expected because officials had not planned for the two-month lag time between when the room tax is collected at hotels and when it finally arrives in airport coffers, officials said.




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