By EDITH ZHOU
Capital News Service
LANSING – A slight drop in money from Washington and Lansing this year has reduced the ability of some Michigan airports to do maintenance and infrastructure projects.
The state has 235 public use airports, a number that hasn’t changed for several years, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).
For 2013, these airports will receive about $107.7 million in government funds, $82.2 million from the federal government and $14.4 million from the state.
Jon Ogar of MDOT’s Aeronautics Bureau said federal funding has been declining a little, while state money has steadily dropped in recent years.
“Generally, about 75 percent of funding is used for rehabilitating or maintaining current infrastructure, and the remainder is used for capacity enhancement,” Ogar said.
Michigan ranked 12th among the states in federal Airport Improvement Program aid.
According to MDOT’s figures, aviation contributes $19 billion annually to state’s economy and plays a principal role in the transportation system, but compared to other states like Minnesota and Wisconsin, Michigan’s average investment is $10 million less per year.
MDOT’S Airport Capital Improvement Plan identifies a need FOR an $850 million investment over the next five years. At the current funding level, the shortfall is more than $50 million annually.
Declining tax revenue is one of the causes of the shortfall. The excise tax rate for aviation fuel has remained at 3cents per gallon since its inception in 1929.
According to Gov. Rick Snyder’s 2014 budget proposal, an increase in aircraft registration fees from 1 cent to 3 cents per pound would raise an additional $540,000 to support aeronautics programs.
Evart Municipal Airport in Osceola County receives $150,000 from the federal government annually that pays for most of its project costs.
It is one of the 95 airports in Michigan that gets money under the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems. These airports are considered significant to national air transportation.
Among others are airports in Sturgis, Big Rapids, Manistee, Cadillac and Cheboygan.
Zackary Szakacs is the Evart city manager and oversees the airport. He said it was originally used primarily by businesses.
“We have three big corporations in our area using our airport to deliver parts,” he said.
Szakacs said airport use has increased since it started receiving federal funds.
“We finished building a new terminal late last year and are planning to build a fuel facility and wildlife fence to make the runway safer and attract more planes,” he said.
Ogar said all Michigan airports receiving government funds are in use and have great meaning to local residents.
“Community airports serve a wide variety of community needs, providing access for commerce and industry, tourism, law enforcement and emergency medical situations. And these airports are also valued assets for attracting new businesses and jobs to local communities,” he said.
Szakacs said the Evart airport has been a great local economic investment and is working hard to attract more landings.
By EDITH ZHOU