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This article highlights the foolish priorities that taxpayers have the ability to stop. Here’s what I’m talking about:

An airport that serves the whole Central Minnesota area is looking for financial support from that region. St. Cloud Regional Airport was the first recipient of revenues from the half-cent local option sales tax when it was established in 2003. Residents will vote in November on whether to continue that source of revenue.

The airport is one of the three regional projects, including trail connections and the community and aquatics center, that would benefit from the tax extension.

“It’s our greatest example of a true regional project,” St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis said.

With all due respect to Mayor Kleis, spending money on the airport is a waste of money. A few years ago, money was spent on upgrading the airport. About a year later, scheduled air service was discontinued. The airport parking lot was empty until St. Cloud agreed to terms with Allegiant Air to provide charter service to Arizona.

This is the part of the article that I find offensive:

A $5 million terminal expansion is planned that would need $500,000 in sales tax. The airport was expanded in 2008, and Airport Director Bill Towle said a majority of that work was to bring the building up to new security standards.

The new project would add space to the main lobby area. Towle said the area is overcrowded with the restaurant and lines from the check-in area. Now that hundreds of travelers go through the terminal with daily air service, more space is needed.

There also needs to be more room for baggage claim and the space where bags are stored before being put on the plane, he said.

What happens when scheduled air service to Chicago ends? Then all that money will have been spent foolishly. This graphic shows how underutilized the St. Cloud Regional Airport is:

First, an explanation of the acronyms is in order. LF stands for load factor. To make a profit, airlines need a load factor of at least 70%. The chart shows that they’ve hit that 70% mark twice thus far. They’re projected to hit and exceed that over Labor Day weekend, too.

What’s disturbing is that a significant percentage of the rest of the days fall far short of that 70% mark. Simply put, Skywest Airlines isn’t profitable. They’d need a huge increase in traffic to make a profit.

That isn’t likely considering the fact that airfare out of Minneapolis is 25% cheaper than flying out of St. Cloud. Why would taxpayers vote for a tax that pays for something that won’t get used 3 years from now? (BTW, three years is being charitable.)

While I don’t doubt that the airport is busy right now, there’s little doubt that it won’t be busy if SkyWest opts out in a year. I’m skeptical that air service is viable because the load factor statistics provide an indication of how little interest there is in this travel option.

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5 Responses to “Raising taxes, spending foolishly”

  • walter hanson says:

    Gary:

    I didn’t see it in the article, but how much of the lack of the use of the airport can be tied to SCSU ending it’s aviation program a couple of years ago?

    Walter Hanson
    Minneapolis, MN

  • wanderer says:

    “Build it and they will come” is a wonderful inspiration for fantasy movie. As the enrollment at SCSU continues to decline, perhaps the air traffic for families visiting students and employees traveling on business will decrease – it surely won’t increase.

  • wanderer says:

    Another thought. Mesaba regional flights through St Cloud also were supported by small flights connecting from other regional airports north of STC. That traffic was factored into the previous airport expansion and improvement. Also, wasn’t the runway lengthened to accommodate larger planes? What are those folks doing now and how would we replace them if their airports no longer have regional carriers routing through STC? At MSP the shuttle vans are doing great business, not just to St Cloud but to Bemidji, etc.

  • A for profit guy says:

    I flew for a regional carrier and I can tell you that without subsidies at the Federal level(that no longer exist)when the $900,000.00 runs out so will the Carrier.
    Perhaps we could request how hard that fund has been hit so far given the load factors that are having to be carried by that fund. That would provide an accurate calender of when it will be over.

    I suppose someone could persuade Lutheran Social Services to have direct flights from Mogadishu. We may have to wait until they field a candidate for Mayor.
    The Somalis are the only thing increasing in St Cloud, which will continue to drive SCSU students away. What the heck do parents from other parts think when touring a campus when there are more goat markets now than McDonalds……Hmmmmmmm?

    St Cloud does not need “air service” anyway and as before it will disappear and as before they will spend more money making it “better” just before it does.

  • Overseas student says:

    It is clear SCSU is not willing to become a community partner providing graduates for critical needed areas that have a shortage of qualified workers in the airline industry like pilots and managers. Instead, they installed an irrigation system in the community garden at a time where enrollments have seen a decline approaching 25%.

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