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Burbank Airport Board Approves Budget

May 20, 2003|Caitlin Liu | Times Staff Writer

Amid worsening financial pressures, Burbank Airport commissioners adopted a $49.9-million budget Monday, despite a $2.2-million deficit that may force them to dip into their shrinking reserves.

A majority of commissioners voted for the revised budget after rejecting an earlier draft prepared by the airport staff. The earlier version would have balanced the budget, but only if some new initiatives -- such as replacing old passenger chairs in the terminal, hiring new personnel and improving airfield lighting -- were cut or delayed.

"There are certain projects we don't want to see deferred. Once you stop, it's more difficult to get going again," said Chris Holden, president of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority.

Some projects incur a one-time cost and can help save money later, Commissioner Don Brown said. For example, the $400,000 chair-replacement effort cannot wait because passengers have filed claims alleging injuries caused by those seats, officials said.

But Gerald Briggs, the lone dissenter who voted against the adopted budget, calls his colleagues' action reckless.

"It is not a responsible, prudent budget," said Briggs, who chairs the authority's finance committee. He said some projects included in the budget, such as a $170,000 model airplane display celebrating the airport's role in the history of flight, make no sense in light of the authority's current financial woes.

For years, the airport ran a budget surplus. Last year, the authority had $71 million in its reserves. But after undertaking a massive construction project to comply with new federal security standards after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the reserves have dropped below $40 million.

The airport has also seen a drop in parking fees, which had been among the most consistent and profitable revenue sources. While the authority pulled in nearly $16 million a year from parking in the past, it expects to collect only $10 million next fiscal year.

The airport also has come under heat from the Federal Aviation Administration, which recently demanded the return of $46 million in grant funding for a proposed terminal.

The authority already used the money to buy 130 acres for a new terminal, but the project has been stalled.

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