The city of Lewiston is proposing a $350,000 contribution to the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport for the 2020 budget year.

The amount is less than a wish-list worth more than $600,000 recently presented by interim airport Manager Clarence W. “Bill” McKown that included things like a $200,000 remodel of the second floor into passenger holding space.

Lewiston City Manager Alan Nygaard didn’t fund that and some other items in the proposal, but McKown called it “tremendous” for its attention to items like improved security, safety and a consultant to lure more air service to the facility.

“You’re accomplishing three or four of the really unique safety items within the airport systems that we work with, and the actual infrastructure itself, like the crack seal on Taxiway Delta,” McKown said during the Lewiston City Council’s budget work session Tuesday night.

The city’s offering includes $50,000 toward fixing that taxiway, which has some cracks big enough to swallow a grown person’s foot. The proposal also includes $30,000 to convert to paid parking, which should generate about $150,000 in new annual revenue for the airport; $100,000 for improved security; $50,000 each year over the next two years for the air-service consultant; $10,000 for website improvements; $15,000 for a new paint striper; and $26,000 for computer security software.

The total amount would be rounded out with contributions toward airport operations and firefighting. City Councilor Jim Kleeburg pointed out that Nez Perce County, which shares ownership of the airport with the city, has floated the possibility of funding McKown’s full request. But Nygaard said the city has to balance the airport’s needs with other pressing needs in the regular city budget.

“If they want to make that contribution, that’s fabulous,” Nygaard said of the county’s unofficial proposal. “I’m sure the airport can use those funds. But I think from our priority standpoint, we have to make choices.”

And those choices are based on what McKown and previous airport managers have requested, plus input from Federal Aviation Administration surveys of the airport for compliance with rules for facilities that host commercial flights, Nygaard said.

If the council approves, the airport contribution would be a significant increase from the $147,000 allocated by the city for the current fiscal year. The additional money is largely to replace revenue lost when Alaska Air left the airport last year over low passenger volumes.

In other business, Lewiston Fire Department Chief Travis Myklebust outlined his budget proposal, which includes delaying a planned new station at the northwest corner of Fifth Street and Bryden Avenue until a growth and needs study can be completed. Myklebust said he is sure the location is suitable, but wants to spend $20,000 on the study to ensure it will best serve the Lewiston Orchards as that area expands.

City Administrative Services Director Dan Marsh gave the council an update on how property taxes will contribute to the 2020 budget. Last year, the council approved a little more than $1 million in foregone taxes, which became a part of the base budget.

But Marsh is recommending the council not dip into the remaining $1.4 million in foregone taxes available this year. Idaho law allows municipalities to increase property taxes by a maximum of 3 percent each year, and the foregone amount represents the property taxes that past councils have declined to raise under that cap.

Marsh said the council should still take that maximum 3 percent in 2020 and 2021, raising $644,000 and $668,000 in new revenue for those years, respectively. If net property values in the city increase by a comparable amount, property owners whose assessments don’t change should pay a similar amount in property tax next year, he said.

But that net value is a new wrinkle in this year’s budget calculations, he added. He and Nygaard said the city has reviewed the building permits issued over the last year and found about a $30 million discrepancy between what it thinks the net citywide property value should be, and what the Nez Perce County Assessor’s Office is estimating.

Marsh said the city will work with the assessor’s office to understand why there is such a big difference in the numbers. A lower net value also has the negative effect of reducing the state of Idaho’s sales tax disbursement to the city, he said.

Mills may be contacted at jmills@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2266.

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