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Westmoreland County Airport Authority to delay submission of budget plan to commissioners

| Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

Facing a $200,000 deficit in its tentative budget for 2013, the Westmoreland County Airport Authority Tuesday decided to delay submitting the spending plan to county commissioners until authority members can review it.

Donald Rossi, authority chairman, said the airport authority could ask the county for additional money, but the authority's financial committee will review the proposed budget.

β€œI don't want to send the county a budget we can't live with,” Rossi said.

With the board deciding not to discuss the tentative budget at the public meeting, Gabe Monzo, authority executive director, declined to reveal the proposed budget.

The authority's budget must be approved by county commissioners.

For 2012, the authority submitted a budget of just more than $2.1 million for operating the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity and Rostraver Airport in Rostraver, said Dwayne Pickels, authority administrative assistant. The budget includes the authority's annual debt service of $729,300.

The county will contribute $1.42 million toward the airport authority operating budget this year, plus cover the $729,300 debt service. That allocation includes a one-time appropriation of $415,000 for developing Latrobe Airline Services, said Sandy Flanders, financial administration director for Westmoreland County. Latrobe Airline Services is the authority-owned operation that services Spirit airplanes as well as providing passenger services, such as baggage and passenger check-in.

In 2011, the airport authority had submitted a $2.05 million tentative budget to the county.

In other financial matters, the authority gave its approval to issue $4 million in bonds to refinance its 2007 debt, a move that will save the authority about $210,000.

The authority approved the bond issue, pending county commissioners guaranteeing repayment of the bond. That is expected to be done on Oct. 18, said Thomas S. Lynch, a Pittsburgh bond counsel for the refinancing.

With interest rates at about 2.87 percent, compared to the 4.21 percent interest rate on the 2007 bonds, the authority will not increase its annual debt service with the refinancing, said Michael Zubasic, managing director for PNC Financial Services Group's public finance division. The authority can't start repaying the 2007 bond issue until March 2014.

The authority will receive at least $210,000 at the time of closing, which should occur around Thanksgiving. That money could be used for capital projects, thus freeing up money allocated for capital projects, Lynch said.

β€œIt's a win for us,” said Mark Gera, authority member.

Rossi received assurances that if the authority wants to borrow $30 million for a new airport terminal in two years, its refinancing would not hurt its bid for additional financing. Rossi said he did not want to risk issuing a $30 million bond issue in 2014 for savings now.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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