Taxpayers keep airport up and running.

Mike Linn

Airport officials have managed to keep the Portales Municipal Airport in tip-top shape thanks to grant money even after a subpar year in revenues.
The airport pulled in almost $83,000 in revenues in 2003, between $40,000 and $50,000 less than reported in a year prior to 9/11, Airport Manager Ray Pallares said.
The airport’s earned revenue is generated through fuel sales and renting hangar space. But more than 80 percent of the money to fund the airport comes from taxpayer dollars, through federal grants and city funds.
“I don’t think any small airport can make a lot of major improvements without grants,” said Dennis Edwards, who served as chairman of the airport advisory committee for eight years before resigning last week. “The FFA has a huge pool of funds … and a certain portion of that is supposed to go out to the community airports.”
Edwards, who resigned because he will be moving, said 90 percent of the grant money comes from the Federal Aviation Administration.
City and airport officials say nearly all small airports are kept afloat thanks to grant money, much of which is generated through gross receipts tax on jet fuel, Pallares said.
Roughly $93,000 from the city’s general fund went to subsidize the airport in 2003, something Mayor Orlando Ortega thinks is worthwhile.
“What are the consequences to not having a municipal airport: I truly believe a municipal airport is key to the development of a good solid community,” Ortega said.
Pallares and Edwards said the Portales Municipal Airport is one of the best kept in the state for its size, mainly because airport officials there have been very successful in acquiring grant money.
For example, more than $100,000 of federal funding went to the airport’s new Airport Terminal Information System (ATIS), a weather reporting system.
Edwards believes the system will bulk up business at the airport.
Pallares said the some of the airport’s more frequent customers are military personnel. But revenues generated through military refuelin has been low because of the war in Iraq. Pallares said the airport will experience a boost in business over the summer months, when farmers will be spraying their cropland.
He said increased security since 9/11 at big airports may turn many travelers to buy their own planes or fly through smaller community airports.
“I think in the long run we’ll benefit from this,” Pallares said.