ST. CLOUD -- After much discussion, the Stearns County Board of Commissioners has voted to approve a resolution joining a newly-created Regional Airport Authority to operate the St. Cloud Airport.

The board voted 3-2 in favor with commissioners Steve Notch and Jeff Mergen opposing the measure. The commissioners represent rural parts of Stearns County and question whether their constituents would benefit and whether the airports in Brooten, Paynesville and Sauk Centre would be hurt by the possibility tax dollars would go to an airport up to an hour away.

Sherburne County Administrator Bruce Messelt told commissioners, there is a possibility an airport authority could levy a tax on property owners in the future...

There is the potential that in the first 10 years the city's continued commitment may be insufficient with the activities of the operations. The authority that you appoint may choose to initiate a tax even before those 10 years sunset. That is a possibility.

But, he was quick to point out the airport study is projecting the opposite...

The study does not envision that because there is a lot more revenue (to be captured) and in fact, the city's perspective is if this authority gets up and going, their goal was actually to get out even earlier because the projections are that revenue will increase therefore the city's support could go down during the first 10 years.

Stearns County Administrator Mike WIlliams told commissioners if the city's annual subsidy would need to be taken over by the airport authority there would then be a small property tax impact.  He says on an airport subsidy of $750,000 a homeowner with a $200,000 home would pay $4.69 per year.

Once the St. Cloud City Council approves the resolution, a Regional Airport Authority can be formed. The city of St. Cloud will then phase itself out of operating and subsidizing the airport over a 10-year period.

The airport authority will also require Federal Aviation Administration approval before it will be formed on January 1st, 2021.

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