The city’s General Fund is not legally obligated to pay an airport expense or debt service payments.However, the City Council has discretion over the allocation of general fund monies in general, and may approve an allocation of general fund monies for airport expenditures. This includes payment of debt service. The allocation of general fund resources to the airport would be a policy decision by the City Council, not a legal obligation.
Our airport is much like a child that leaves the nest. Everything is going great, they have a job, they bought their own home and they are by all means financially independent. But what happens if that adult child runs into some issues? For example, the child does not save enough money and then purchases a bigger house and is doing everything he/she can to keep up with the payments. To make matters worse, the “child” loses their job and now does not have a regular stream of income coming in. Although the parent does not have a legal obligation to help out, the parent may choose to help anyway.
Our airport is similar to the child, and the first paragraph spells out the legal relationship between the city and the airport. The airport budget is also called an Enterprise Fund in that all the fees collected go back to the airport to pay for expenses. However, if the airport’s economic condition worsens—and it most likely will—then inevitably there is risk to the general fund. Prior to that ultimate policy decision, the airport could face more outsourcing to non city employees to save money or even put our curfew at risk to gain more long-haul flights. The airport could try to grow revenue through the development of vacant land on the west side of the airport, which may or may not create other externalities.
If you are curious about this topic, consider attending a public meeting at City Hall Council chambers tonight at 6:30pm. The airport management will present alternatives on future development.