Airport makes budget cuts

BOB HOPE AIRPORT — The Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority unanimously approved a $12.6-million budget cut Monday that diverts most of what would normally go to the airport’s reserves to instead pay for operations.

The 15% reduction in spending accounts for falling revenues and anemic passenger rates that have yet to recover amid the ongoing recession.

The bulk of the cut will come from the authority’s contribution to its reserve account. Last fiscal year, the airport tucked away $10 million from ticket sales, a practice that will be eliminated under the new spending plan.

Officials also proposed slashing spending for facility improvement projects by more than $3 million from last year because of the added availability of grant funding sources like the federal stimulus package, said Kathy David, director of administrative services for the airport.

The change will allow the airport to move ahead with new developments, while spending less of its own funds than it did last year, David said.

Officials plan to receive $17.9 million in grants, including about $4 million from the federal stimulus package for a taxiway reconstruction project that will create about 40 jobs, officials said.

Staff members presented the budget after a report showing an 18.6% drop in passenger revenues since the start of the year.

Despite the appearance of falling earnings and the prospect of further declines in the future, airport executives incorporated salary increases and additional staffing as part of the budget.

While other government agencies, including those in Glendale and Burbank, have refrained from adding personnel expenses during the recession, the airport needed to spend more on airport staffing to keep up with consumer demands, Executive Director Dan Feger said.

Customer service plays a large role in making the airport appealing, which is why officials planned the increases in payments for parking, janitorial and management services, among other added personnel expenses, Feger said.

The changes add about $900,000 to the budget.

“At the end of the day, the only thing this airport offers our customers is convenience,” Feger said. “It’s the only reason why we still exist. We’re going to try and keep it where it was.”

The added expenses will also help the airport keep its bus drivers from leaving for better paying jobs, and will help parking operations run smoothly, Feger said.

Officials had considered closing one or more of the parking lots in order to cut costs, but decided that all of them should remain open, even if they are underutilized, because they each save customers time, he said.

“The parking experience is an experience your customers see both at the beginning of their travel and at the end,” he said, later adding, “It really doesn’t matter to your customers getting off of the bus that the economy is going down.”


 ZAIN SHAUK covers education. He may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at zain.shauk@latimes.com.

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