Lehigh Valley

No job cuts planned at LVIA next year

Airport authority approves 2014 budget

HANOVER TWP., Lehigh County, Pa -  Lehigh Valley International Airport won't be handing out pink slips to its staff next year, after an operating budget of just more than $20 million was approved Tuesday by the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority.

The budget touts an approximate $1 million increase from 2013's $19.65 million spending plan, translating into a five percent budgetary hike, according to authority Executive Director Charles Everett.

Earlier this year, the financially-strapped and debt-laden airport was forced to eliminate 10 percent of its 110 full-time workers and scrap a popular shuttle bus service that ferried passengers back and forth from terminals to parking areas.

Cuts in staff and service were enacted by the authority in recent years to battle declining passenger counts and high debt costs. However, authority chairman Tony Iannelli said the days of sending workers home without jobs are over.

"Like everyone else in the 21st Century, it's a challenge," Iannelli said. "We have to be more entrepreneurial.

"There are no layoffs in this budget. We've gotten rid of the low-hanging fruit by cutting costs. The days of sending people home are over and, long-term, we're going to commit to this airport."

Authority Secretary-Treasurer Dean Browning said that costs were squeezed so much in recent years that the 2014 budget had nowhere to go but up.

The costs of labor, salaries, payroll, employee benefits and health care combine for $6.8 million in the 2014 budget.

Browning said the spending plan calls for $5.49 million in net income "to cover what we need to do," and $1.5 million pegged for capital improvements.

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, a member of the airport authority board,  said if the budget is overly optimistic on the revenue estimate side, "it's something that (airport staff) is going to have to live with."

An example brought to light by authority member Robert Buesing is the airport's parking revenue, which missed its 2013 target projections by $300,000.

"We're $300,000 behind in parking revenue this year and the projection for next year is $300,000 higher," he said. "That's $600,000. What makes you think that we'll hit that?"

In other business, the authority passed the 2014 portion of its five-year capital improvement plan. The $45 million plan, which runs through 2018, is voted on by authority members on a year-by-year basis.

Highlights of the $1.5 million plan for 2014 include noise abatement studies for nearby homes and runway work.

On another issue, Iannelli said profits from the Sands Lehigh Valley Air Show, held at the airport over the weekend of Aug. 24-25, stood at about $82,000. However, payments due of between $50,000 and $55,000 will significantly cut that profit margin.

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