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Report: No regional funds for airport debt

Recommendatin made to turn down city's request for tax dollars collected from airport to go towards runway project

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

The City of Oshawa will likely not be receiving any regional funds to help pay off the debt due to its new $6 million runway project.

According to a report set to be presented at today’s (Feb. 1) regional committee of the whole meeting, finance staff say that the city’s request to have the regional share of property taxes from the Oshawa Executive Airport be redirected back to the city cannot be done as the money is needed elsewhere.

The report says that, this year, the region expects to add $182,000 to its coffers from regional property taxes collected on city-owned land at the airport.

Mayor John Henry says that while the airport is owned by the city, it is economic driver across the region.

“This piece of infrastructure, while located in Oshawa, is a very unique piece of regional asset that meets the needs of the region, including the police helicopter that flies out of the airport,” Henry says, adding that only about a quarter of the planes at the airport are from Oshawa, with the rest coming from outside the city.

“It’s my hope that the region realizes the importance of the Oshawa airport in conversation about the importance of what’s happening with an airport in Pickering. If the region talks about the airport in Pickering as a strategic regional idea or concept, then why isn’t the airport here being supported?”

Henry says the airport brings about $80 million per year to the region through economic activity and provides employment for nearly 500 people.

The mayor, along with Councillor Bob Chapman, put forward the request for regional property taxes collected from properties at the airport to go towards the debt accumulated to replace the runway, which will cost approximately $6 million.

Should Henry be unable to change councillors’ minds and have them vote to direct the funds to the airport, the mayor says the runway repairs will still be done.

“It’s imperative that the runway be repaired this year and meet the needs of the airport,” he says.

“My argument is that it’s unfair to ask the residents of Oshawa to pick up the cost related to a regional asset. This is the only thing in the Durham Region that can be defined as a regional asset where only one municipality pays for it. You only have to look at the economic outlook for all the municipalities, and I think you’ll find that most of them refer to the airport as an economic asset in the Region of Durham.”