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Government and Politics


Could Fulton airport go from an Akron subsidy to a money maker?
A Blue Ribbon Task for says the city needs to looks at its hundreds of millions of dollars in assets and might have to consider an income tax hike
by WKSU's M.L. SCHULTZE


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M.L. Schultze
 
Ochsenhirt chaired the task force appointed by Mayor Dan Horrigan even before he took office Jan. 1.
Courtesy of M.L. SCHULTZE
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Akron has big financial problems. It also has hundreds of millions of dollars in assets. And a Blue Ribbon Task Force says there may be a way to translate some of them into money – either by changing how they’re managed, bringing in new partners or outright selling the assets. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more on one of those assets.

 

LISTEN: The future for Akron Fulton

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One of the biggest assets is the Akron Fulton Airport, which costs the city about $300,000 a year in subsidies. Task Force Chairman Tim Ochsenhirt says selling the airport would be complicated, so changes in management may be the answer.

“Apparently if you sell it, with the FAA when they put in money, they then have a lien against your airport. So if it’s ever taken out of use, you will owe a certain amount back. It’s been suggested that that might be $20 million that we would owe back, which would be the worst of all worlds.” 

Conversely, he said, if the FAA approves a new five-year master plan for the airport, it would put up 90 percent of the cost of the improvements. And Ochsenhirt says those improvements – combined with potential changes in management – could make the airport a money maker.  

The task force also warned that a hike in the income tax may be in Akron’s future.

The report warned told Horrigan he may “need to explore increasing the city’s income tax rate.” But it strongly recommended that the city look first at savings and other incremental ways to raise revenue. 

The report noted that Akron – and other cities – have struggled since the state cut the tangible property tax, inheritance tax and local government funds. It also says Akron has high retirement costs and debt.

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