County voters asked to help Baker airport

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By MIKE FERGUSON

Of the Baker City Herald

The only ballot measure that every county voter will decide on the May 21 ballot is whether to levy an additional $140,000 in property taxes during the coming fiscal year to pay a portion of the cost of repaving the main runway at the Baker City Municipal Airport.

The money raised by the proposed levy would serve as a 10 percent local match for a grant exceeding $1 million awarded by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The repaving work was to have taken place next year, but cracks discovered in the main runway necessitated moving the project up a year, Baker City Manager Gordon Zimmerman said.

The levy, which would expire after one year, would be $0.16 per $1,000 assessed valuation based on the 2002-03 estimate. That would add $16 to the property tax bill for the owner of a $100,000 house in Baker County.

The countys match for the federal project is actually $124,500, but the levy is higher than that because not every dollar in property taxes can be collected. The difference $15,500 will be collected in future years, County Assessor Allen Phillips told commissioners.

The levy represents the countys portion of improvements that the Baker City Airport Commission says are needed to attract a fixed-base operator to the airport.

The city has already paid about $200,000 for the installation of new fuel tanks, a new cardlock system that allows pilots to pump their own gas, and the purchase of two airport buildings, Baker City Attorney Tim Collins said.

The county voters pamphlet will be inserted into the state voters pamphlet and mailed early next month, Baker County Clerk Tami Green said. Ballots will be mailed out separately.

Neither supporters of the levy nor opponents filed arguments in time to be published in the county voters pamphlet, Green said.

Baker County commissioners decided to put the question to voters last month after splitting over whether to try to fund the project through this springs budgeting process, an approach favored by Commissioner Tim Kerns. But commissioners Howard Britton and Brian Cole voted instead to let county voters decide the issue.

The last time that was done, in 1991, voters supported the levy by a 70-30 margin, Green said. The measure passed in every precinct in the county.

If the voters turn it down, itll be back to the drawing board, Cole said. I believe its an important project both for Baker City and all of Baker County. If the voters turn it down, well probably hold a joint work session between the Baker City Council and the county commissioners to see what can be done. We dont want to lose that FAA funding.

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The Baker City Herald
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