County aids Gypsum in saving airport revenues
GYPSUM — As they look back on 2015, Gypsum officials can reflect on the value of intergovernmental friendship.
Specifically, the town learned it’s a very good thing to have very good friends in Eagle County.
Earlier this year, the Federal Aviation Administration delivered a piece of news that could have cost the town of Gypsum significant money — think in the $500,000-plus range annually. But after contacting the county about their plight, town officials were able to work out a solution that keeps those dollars in Gypsum.
The Ins and Outs
In August, according to Eagle County Attorney Bryan Treu, FAA officials sent out a memorandum reminding local governments about the agency’s policy regarding revenues collected at airports.
“The general gist is if money is collected at the airport, it needs to be spent at the airport,” said Treu.
For Gypsum, the news meant a huge hit to its general fund because the town collects sales tax from items purchased and, more substantially, fuel sold at the Eagle County Regional Airport.
“That was shocking news to everyone, and it was a big hit to Gypsum,” said Treu.
“It could have been a huge impact for us,” said Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll. “It could have been a $400,000 to $650,000 impact annually.”
When town officials learned of the FAA memo, they approached the county to find out if they had any advice about alternatives to the directive. Treu said that the two governments explored lots of options before landing on a provision that grandfathered in sales tax collections that were in place prior to 1987.
Gypsum didn’t annex the airport property until the early 1990s, but at that time, 2 percent of the town’s current 3 percent sales tax was in place. County officials were able to convince FAA officials to grandfather that part of the town’s sales tax revenues. That left a remaining 1 percent, but the town was further able to show that it pays upwards of $800,000 annually for law enforcement services through the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, and that contract includes service to the airport property.
“That was a very friendly interpretation from the FAA,” said Treu. “They were very reasonable on this issue.”
Compliance with the FAA directive will require a bit of accounting and reconciliation work annually for the county and the town, but faced with the alternative of losing the revenue source, both governments are happy to comply.
Shroll complimented the county commissioners and county staff for their willingness to take up the town’s case with their FAA contacts.
“It was a good lesson in governmental cooperation,” he said.
Treu added that it was also an issue of fairness.
“The airport is located in the town and they experience so many impacts from that,” said Treu. “This (the sale tax deal) is to help the offset the impact of having that facility in their town.”