County's budget magic stops at the airport

November 29, 2013 

When it comes to working magic with dollars, St. Clair County Administrator Dan Maher is one of the best.

He figured out a way to ensure that county workers get 1.5 percent raises in a challenging financial year, avoid layoffs and not raise property tax rates.

How? By cutting some costs and increasing the price of various fees the county charges. You'll be affected if you need to get a copy of a birth certificate or conduct other business involving the county. Restaurants will pay more for inspections. But most county residents won't be affected, and the fees are better than higher property taxes.

Now if only county officials would let Maher do his magic on making that budget hole created by MidAmerica St. Louis Airport disappear.

The county has operated in the red for the last three years. Auditors noted that the county would have been in the black if it weren't subsidizing MidAmerica.

County leaders will start the 2014 budget year assuming that that MidAmerica will be in the red again. Airport Director Tim Cantwell just told the County Board that he anticipates losing $1.4 million on operations. That's if everything goes as expected.

Some perspective: The higher fees should generate about $420,000 in revenue. The projected airport loss of $1.4 million is more than three times that amount.

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