Cape airport $53,000 in red

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Lack of passenger air service all summer hurt Cape Girardeau Regional Airport's income. So did a disappointing turnout for the ninth annual air festival.

The airport showed a negative $53,604 in revenue between July and September, the first quarter of the city's fiscal year.

Despite the figure, officials expressed optimism that the city will be solidly in the black by the last day of June.

The Cape Girardeau City Council received the news with a quarterly report from finance director John Richbourg on Monday.

Richbourg said three of the city's five funds for income had negative balances by Sept. 30. The General Revenue fund had a $45,158.45 balance, while the Parks and Recreation fund held $9,820.49.

The city's largest source of income is retail sales tax, though fees and fines also add to the city's coffers. Between July and September, the retail sales tax generated $17,718 more than in that same period in 2006.

The air festival, which cost $150,000 to produce, fell short of covering that cost by $37,276. The event drew about 8,000 people, according to airport manager Bruce Loy. He said 6,500 people paid admissions ranging from $10 to $14 for adults and $5 to $6 for children. The show is subsidized with some sponsorships, Loy said.

"That's not to say we don't try our darndest to make money," he said. For the 10th air show, he's exploring partnering with other events, such as Libertyfest, and finding ways to reduce costs while keeping the show entertaining.

City manager Doug Leslie said that while the show did not pay for itself as intended, "it's very beneficial and brings people into the community. You have to weight that expense against the benefit of it."

Chuck Martin, executive director of the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the air show is not the city's biggest event but that it does "fill the hotels and restaurants."

Martin said, on average, an adult visitor to the air show spends $50 in the community for meals and other expenses, not including hotel rooms.

Loy expressed optimism that airport income in the next three quarters will replace the first-quarter negative. Passenger air service started Nov. 18; rent from airport tenant Commander Premier, deferred for the first quarter, was paid starting in the second quarter, Richbourg said.

Loy said he expects another income boost when Commander Premier begins manufacturing planes in 2008, which will require hiring as many as 60 people.

Both Richbourg and Leslie cautioned those reading the report to keep in mind that the first-quarter includes bills for yearlong projects. If retail sales figures hold steady -- the report reflects a 4 percent annual increase over last year -- income will keep slightly ahead of inflation, which in Missouri is at 3.5 percent.

Richbourg said the second-quarter budget report will likely be delivered in February.

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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