A small plane prepares for take-off at Red Deer Airport. (Advocate file photo).

Red Deer Airport seeks more municipal dollars to balance budget

Revenues affected by loss of passenger service, oilfield slump

With the oilfield downturn and the loss of passenger air service, Red Deer Airport will run a deficit if city council doesn’t approve an additional $118,000 budget contribution, says the CEO.

The spending is not being recommended by Red Deer city administration, which has been toeing the austerity line to keep this year’s tax increase to no more than 2.5 per cent to support the city’s 2019 operating budget.

At budget discussions on Tuesday, city manager Craig Curtis said council had already pre-approved a $255,000 city contribution toward the airport’s operating budget — which is up 50 per cent from the $180,000 granted the previous year.

Curtis did not feel the City of Red Deer could rationalize giving the airport an additional $118,000 — although this same amount was approved by Red Deer County.

“We had already significantly increased the budget at a time when they’d lost Air Canada passenger service,” said Curtis. “I felt there were some areas in which their costs could go down.”

Airport CEO Graham Ingham, who’s in discussions to get ultra low-cost passenger service established at the airport, said he’s been reducing as many expenditures as possible. But many airport costs don’t fluctuate, despite revenues being down from the loss of oilfield-related air traffic and the suspension of service by Air Canada, he added. Among them is the hiring of a new safety and security manager.

If Red Deer city council does not approve the additional airport funding during ongoing budget deliberations, Ingham said the airport will run an $118,000 deficit until revenues pick up from passenger service starting up again, or the economy turning around.

He’s grateful for the support he gets from the county and the city — as well as the revenues that are still coming in from land and space rentals at the airport.

“I believe when one door closes another opens,” added Ingham, who remains “very confident” that passenger service will be available again soon.

In the meantime, he’s planning fundraisers to help pay for a “modest” apron and terminal expansion that Ingham hopes to get underway this year, with a six-month construction timeline. He said these are needed to attract a low-cost carrier.


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