Ohio's Direct Grant Program Hit Hard by Budget Cuts

May 25, 2020

In our last posting, we explained how our airports are dealing with COVID-19.  There has since been another twist to how our airports are dealing with the fall-out of COVID-19: Ohio's Direct Grant program has been slashed.  Twenty projects were selected at General Aviation (GA) airports by the Ohio Department of Transportation for FY2020.  Eighteen of those 20 grants have been negatively impacted by the budget cuts ordered by the Office of Budget Management.  Airport projects notoriously are completed late in the state's fiscal year due to design, bid, and construction processes. Our money was still sitting on the table, ripe to be taken back from the airports. And the state needed to come up with cuts.  

The truth of the matter is that we all understand: state revenues are down drastically due to the stay-at-home orders. The latest numbers say more people have filed for some level of unemployment assistance in Ohio than ever before.  How are Ohio's schools going to teach kids next year?  These are BIG issues. 

The GA airports' reality is that some of these projects will cost the local communities or the state more money in the long run because of stopped or delayed construction that will have to potentially re-bid, re-mobilize, require storage of materials and/or equipment, etc. The costs won't go down from here. But these projects are safety-related (lighting, marking, obstruction removal, pavement improvements, etc.) and so the local airport and its community will feel the crunch in a time when there isn't much left to crunch. 

Our airport users pay into the state's general revenue fund through taxes on aviation fuel and related activities. All tax revenues created by airports must return to airports according to the Federal Aviation Administration revenue diversion policies.  Ohio's airport tax revenue does not go into a protected fund like some states.  While we completely understand the situation, many wish we didn't have to feel the slash greater than other transportation budgets (on a percentage basis) for our safety-related projects.

Here's to looking to the future and hoping we all get back on our feet and back to a world that is recognizable!

Be safe! 

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