Air travelers can expect to pay more for plane tickets if the Salt Lake City Council decides to charge the Salt Lake International Airport for structural fire protection.
Jackie Pate, director of public relations for Delta Airlines, based in Atlanta, said the company will have to assess the cost of operations at the Salt Lake airport and possibly pass on fee increases to passengers if the city decides to levy the additional charges."Other cities have attempted to do it, but the airlines have been vigilant in fighting this because it is an added cost of operation. We have to pass that cost along to our passengers," she said.
Cam Caldwell, council budget analyst, said charging enterprise funds for city services is a more accurate way to account for costs. The city has five enterprise funds, including the airport, that are set up to operate as businesses and are supported by user fees. Other city services, funded by tax revenues, are paid for out of the city's general fund.
Caldwell has recommended charging the airport $174,800 for structural fire fighting.
The city's four other enterprise funds include water, sewer, golf and garbage. Charging for city services could free up some $264,000 this year and would help recover costs for police and fire service, which absorb the largest percentage of the city's general fund budget, according to Caldwell.
To taxpayers, the net result of the shift would be slight. The difference boils down to whether services are paid directly by user fees, such as water bills, or through property taxes.
The council has been considering Mayor Palmer DePaulis' recommended general fund budget of some $80 million for nearly a month and will adopt a city budget June 9.
The Airport Authority opposes the city's levying any additional fees for services, said Airport Director Lou Miller. Air carriers have already approved contracts that do not include any additional fees.
"We do not take the position that we should receive structural firefighting for free," Miller said. "We take the position that we pay for it in property taxes and fees."
The airport pays the city $416,000 in sales taxes, $116,000 in property taxes and $474,000 in franchise fees, or total direct revenues of more than $1 million annually.
"We provide all municipal services (ike snow removal and police security) for ourselves, or we pay for them directly," Miller said.
The authority already agreed to pay an additional $140,000 in fire protection costs this year by footing the entire bill for the airport's paramedic unit. Miller said that deal was made because the airport required a higher level of service than is provided to the rest of the city. By paying the entire cost, the airport can require its paramedic unit to only respond to airport calls.