Clearfield County’s commissioners claim it is no longer justifiable to spend a mill’s worth of property tax money, about $155,000 a year, to subsidize the DuBois Regional Airport run by the Clearfield/Jefferson authority.
Jefferson County’s commissioners claim it is vital to use county tax money to support the airport. Jefferson County will provide $155,000.
Who is right?
Both, probably, according to a story in the June 26 edition of our Tri-County Sunday newspaper.
Below the rhetoric, Rockton Mountain rears its massive plateau once again.
For reasons lost to history, the DuBois area is part of Clearfield County, population about 82,000. But the DuBois area to the west of Rockton Mountain has more in common with further-west Jefferson County and even with the southern portions of Elk County than it does with the three-fourths of Clearfield County’s population “over the mountain.”
That chunk of Clearfield County is served by a small airport in Clearfield. Its eastern and southern reaches are closer to airports in State College and Altoona than to the DuBois/Jefferson airport, located a half-dozen miles west of DuBois.
The DuBois airport is vital to all of Jefferson County, plus the southern one-third of 32,000-person Elk County, and is important to quite a few Elk County businesses that use air travel.
The DuBois airport is important to Clearfield County as well, but not as vital.
So who should pay the $155,000 that the airport is seeking from Clearfield County?
Clearfield County, yes — but perhaps $40,000, not $155,000.
Where should the remaining money come from?
DuBois, Sandy Township, perhaps Brady Township. Those governments? Maybe. But businesses located there could also kick in some money if they feel the airport is important to them. Let’s say $50,000. Then, between DuBois, Sandy and Brady, $10,000 becomes a viable local match from taxpayers.
And perhaps an additional $30,000 could come from businesses in Elk County, with maybe $10,000 from Brockway, Fox Township and the Ridgway area.
Getting money that way is far messier than getting money from two county-level governments.
But Clearfield County’s commissioners have a point in arguing that the “east of the (Rockton) mountain” taxpayers should not see large amounts of their money flow that far westward.
The commissioners make another point. They claim the airport itself needs to wean itself from county-level handouts and modernize its capitalization, perhaps along the lines suggested above.
Jefferson County’s commissioners make their own point, succinctly synopsized by Commissioner Jeff Pisarcik: Once the airport is gone, “It’s done. It will never come back.”
So work should start on a different funding model, not the outdated two-counties subsidy.