RE:  Airport Master Plan proposals by McFarland Johnson May 20, 2014

How does the expansion affect tax receipts and costs for NYS, Saratoga County, and the Town of Milton?

According to McFarlane Johnson (MJ), building an expanded runway will allow jets to land and take off with more aviation fuel.  They say that the fuel will be purchased at the airport from North American Flight Services and that the additional aviation fuel sold will add significantly to the sales tax revenues of NYS, Stga County, and the Town of Milton.  (The airport itself does not pay taxes, because it is a county-owned entity.  North American Flight Services (NA) has a 20-year lease on the property.)

Alternative #1 re Runway 5-23 from the MJ Master Plan Update calls for no expansion of the current runways, but major infrastructure improvement, including separation of motored aircraft and gliders.  It includes the destruction of some property, but less than their more favored suggestions.  If we have to vote for one of McFarland Johnson’s suggestions, this is the one residents support.

Alternative #2 from MJ calls for an 801 foot extension of the runway in question and requires the destruction of 23 residential homes, clear-cutting of mature trees and all other vegetation, relocation of Rowland Road, a major truck route serving nearby quarries and a cement plant nearer residences in a neighborhood called Rowland Hollow East, an established community of middle-class family homes.

Removal of these properties from the tax base of the Town of Milton (assuming an average assessment of around $275,000) takes well over $6,000,000 off the tax rolls, meaning a loss to the Town of Milton, the County of Saratoga, the Saratoga Springs School District, and the Saratoga Springs Public Library.  Saratoga Springs, being prosperous, can probably deal with this reduction without blinking. Saratoga County will need to collect additional taxes from taxpayers in all towns to make up for the loss, and the Town of Milton will feel the greatest effect.  Add in the amount spent at the local Hannaford (over $600 a month just for our small family), our weekly trips to Allerdice Hardware, and other local businesses, and we further lower the sales tax revenue.

This model does not take into account that the general undesirability of living near the destroyed properties, closer to a major truck route, the increased noise and property damage from the busier airport will discourage people from purchasing homes in the area and force property values to plunge.  Assessments for remaining property will be forced down, further reducing tax revenues for the affected entities and reallotment of tax liability to remaining residents.

It might be good to mention here that McFarlane Johnson included no information of this nature in their report, only the sales tax increase expected from NA’s fuel sales.

We have not factored in the cost of ‘acquisition’ of all the homes, which we are told by MJ is “FREE” because it is funded 90% by the FAA (we all pay our share of federal taxes, right?), NYS (yes, we pay for that, too), and Saratoga County (coincidentally, we are also Saratoga County taxpayers).  We are paying for our own destruction.

MJ proposes Alternative #3 a compromise.  It requires an addition of 301 feet to runway 5-23 and the destruction of less residential property.  The burden of “compromise”, however, rests soley on local residents, as it compromises our safety, our comfort, our way of life, and our property values.  Increasing the runway 301 feet means that jets will be taking off 301 feet closer to the already nearby homes (statement from MJ).  Again, residents will be protesting their assessments as they are unable to sell their homes.  No financial benefits accrue to the communities with this proposal.

These notes talk about only some of the financial consequences of the three alternatives. It does not take into account the human and environmental devastation, the damage to important human, wildlife, and plant ecosystems, nor the destruction of family and community ties.  It does not talk about the challenge of finding other homes near essential services for those who are displaced or the emotional or financial costs of resettling.