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A single engine plane taxis before taking off from Vance Brand Municipal Airport in Longmont on April 28, 2020. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
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Citizens for Airport Accountability, a group of Longmont residents, is preparing to launch a petition drive for a measure asking voters to impose financial constraints on the City Council and city staff’s future ability to budget for Vance Brand Municipal Airport’s operations, maintenance and capital improvements.

As it stands now, Longmont voters “have no control” over the sources  some of the revenues and expenses of the airport, which is supposed to be a self-sufficient enterprise account within the overall city budget, according to JoAnn Dorio-Burton, one member of that organization.

Snowberry Street resident Dorio-Burton said in a Tuesday interview that while airport supporters have characterized the facility as an “economic engine,” she contended that under Longmont’s current budgeting system for the airport, “we have to subsidize it as taxpayers.”

According to a written summary of the proposed ballot initiative and petition format submitted to City Clerk Dawn Quintana on Friday, Citizens for Airport Accountability is seeking to ask Longmont voters in November to amend the city’s home rule charter to specify that any future “approval or acceptance of certain taxpayer-funded airport subsidies” must first be approved by a two-thirds vote in a regular municpal election before council or staff could go proceed with adding those moneys to the budget’s Airport Fund.

That would include requirements that two-thirds of the voters in future elections would have to authorize “any subsidy from the (budget’s) General Fund” or “any federal Airport Improvement Grant.”

If Quintana approves the petition form, Citizens for Airport Accountability would have until Aug. 5 to collect the more than 3,000 valid signatures from registered Longmont voters needed to advance the proposed charter amendment to November’s ballot. Dorio-Burton said she and the other supporters of the proposed ballot initiative hope to be able to begin gathering those signatures by early next week.

A “Findings” section of the proposed charter amendment states that the city’s Airport Fund “has received both direct and indirect taxpayer-funded subsidies from the General Fund, without citizen consent. … Longmont citizens should decide whether or not to grant subsidies to the airport from the General Fund.”

The proposed measure also states that “Longmont citizens should decide whether or not to allow airport expansion. Airport expansion results in increased negative, unregulated environmental impacts to the community. This Initiative ensures that Longmont citizens widely approve of airport expansion projects as a precondition of expansion projects.”

The proposal says requiring prior voter approval for each future federal Airport Improvement Grant would allow Longmont citizens to “decide whether to restore local control of the airport or instead accept federal grant funds, which prevents local control.”

The proposed charter amendment states that when Longmont uses those federal grant monies for capital improvements, the city “agrees to abide by onerous provisions called ‘grant assurances,’ which prevent local control to regulate aircraft noise and other pollution, including leaded aviation fuel emissions. General Aviation airports that are not federally funded can regulate some aircraft operations, including limits on hours of operation and nighttime curfews,” the measure says.

Other members of Citizens for Airport Accountability, according to the proposed charter amendment petition format submitted Friday, are Grant Street resident Scott Stewart, Bowen Street resident Douglas Wray, Lefthand Drive resident John March, and Mountain View Avenue resident Sally Soule.

Longmont’s originally adopted $353.9 million overall budget for this year authorizes $1.36 million in spending from the budget’s Airport Fund, including $144,899 for personal services, $256,576 in operating and maintenance expenses, $948 in non-operating expenses, and $960,000 in capital improvements projects for the facility.

The airport was to start this year with a $451,421 carryover balance from last year’s budget and was projected in October to be getting $510,051 from various fees and charges paid by airport users, including rentals of hangars and other airport property, as well as $637,000 in “miscellaneous” income, according to the adopted 2020 budget.

Airport Manager David Slayter said in a Tuesday email that Federal Aviation Administration funding is anticipated to be $414,000 this year.

Slayter — and in a Tuesday interview, Jim Golden, the city’s chief financial officer — both said there’s no actual transfer from the 2020 budget’s $91.66 million General Fund built into the Airport Fund.

However, the Airport Fund is expected to pay a $68,140 “administrative management fee” to cover part of the costs of other city departments and agencies in handling accounting, legal work and other tasks for the airport — an amount Slater said represents an Airport Fund contribution to the General Fund.

Dorio-Burton said Monday that the facility is “a recreational, hobby airport” where she said the aviators currently using it or based there “a not paying their way.”

However, the ballot proposal is certain to draw fire and opposition from the airport’s present users and supporters, if Citizens for Airport Accountability is successful in its ballot-initiative petition drive and any subsequent campaign for passage of the municipal charter amendment.

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