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Airport Authority approves 2016 budget

by Chris Olson

Posted on 12/17/2015

The Jamestown Regional Airport Authority approved its 2016 budget Wednesday that calls for $130,500 more in spending than in 2015.

The Airport Authority approved revenues of $643,700 and expenditures of $643,100. The biggest increase in revenues comes from $65,000 the Stutsman County Commission approved to help pay for the cost of a wetlands mitigation project. The Airport Authority will also see increased revenues from leases of airport property to Reimer Land Legacy LLC, which is leasing 835 acres of airport land for three years. Reimers will pay $105.73 an acre for 2016, $108.90 an acre for 2017 and $112.17 an acre for 2018. The current lease, which expires at the end of this year, had Reimers leasing the land for $73.32 an acre. In the 2016 budget the lease revenue increases from $75,200 in 2015 to $102,800 for 2016.

On the expenditure side, most of the increase is attributed to the $65,000 the county gave to the Airport Authority to cover its portion of the $1.3 million phase II wetlands mitigation project. Airport Manager Sam Seafeldt said most of the wetlands mitigation project is being paid for by a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration, with the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission paying a portion as well. This project will eliminate 23 acres of wetland on airport property and create or set aside 23 acres of new or existing wetlands somewhere within Stutsman County.

The 2015 budget had $499,600 in total revenue.

The authority also budgeted $206,000 for salaries of the airport's hourly and salaried employees, up from $190,000 in 2015. Brent Harris, who serves on the Airport Authority's human resources committee, said the committee recommended hourly and salaried employees be listed separately in the budget. Seafeldt is the airport's only salaried employee. The airport has six other employees.

Initially the human resource committee recommended an across-the-board 4.5 percent increase for all employees. Harris said in reviewing the wages for hourly employees, the committee found the Airport Authority has given hourly employees 4 to 4.5 percent wage increases over the last couple of years.

"We think our hourly employees are receiving competitive pay for their positions," Harris said.

The Airport Authority approved an up to 3.5 percent wage increase for hourly employees and a 5 percent increase for Seafeldt.

Harris said these increases are budgeted amounts, and all employee wage or salary increases will be dependent on performance.

Passenger boardings

In other business, the Airport Authority reviewed the SkyWest Airlines passenger boardings for November. The regional airline had 763 passenger boardings, which is down from 842 passenger boardings in October, but ahead of the 656 boardings in November 2014.

Seafeldt said the November numbers were better than he thought they would be. He said SkyWest officials are telling him that the December numbers could be the best of the year, but he said he has some doubts.

"I haven't seen any big numbers, yet," Seafeldt said about December passenger boardings.

Seafeldt said so far for the year Jamestown Regional Airport and Devils Lake Regional Airport are the two commercial airports in the state with high percentage passenger boarding increases as compared to last year. He said Devils Lake has seen a 91 percent increase in passenger boardings so far in 2015 as compared to 2014, and Jamestown has seen 150 percent increase in the same time period.

colson@jamestownsun.com

(701) 952-8454