Representatives of the four towns owning the Lakeland Airport — Arbor Vitae, Minocqua, Lac du Flambeau and Woodruff — met Sept. 26 in the Arbor Vitae community center.
It was brief meeting at less than 15 minutes, but the airport commission’s budget at $175,480 was approved.
Also approved was the total contributions from each of the four towns for 2020 at just over $92,000.
Over the years, that contribution, based on the cumulative assessed values of the four towns, has dropped; the amount requested by the airport commission for 2007 was $147,000.
“What’s costing us more this year is the fencing project,” airport administrator Jon Schmitz said during his overview.
Schmitz said the Federal Aviation Administration is funding about $800,000 of the $1 million cost for construction of the 10-foot tall perimeter fence.
The rest of it is a cost share between the state of Wisconsin and the airport commission, $53,000 each Schmitz said, from the state of Wisconsin and the airport commission.
“We budgeted $39,000 for that this year and have spent about $3,000 so far,” he said. “But we expect some good size bills to hit us before the end of December. Other than that, there’s nothing that’s really unusual.”
“Your budget actually went down about $18,700, didn’t it?” Arbor Vitae town chairman Frank Bauers asked.
“Yeah,” Schmitz said. “Because of the $50,000 expenditure for the fence this year.”
He said he budgeted nearly $16,000 for total project matching costs.
After approval of the budget, Bauers proceeded to entertain a motion to adjourn, but Arbor Vitae resident Butch Yost spoke up, saying he uses the airport “a great deal.”
“I think everybody’s doing a great job, particularly Jon,” he said. “Just stay heads up for any of this not free money because nothing’s free, but it’s the best thing going. We pay 5% on everything that gets improved out there — what a deal. The measure of economic value that that airport is to these communities is, I think underestimated.”
Yost said he had nothing but praise, but also said he thought of something after he arrived at the meeting.
“With this equalization or fair sharing of expenses ... maybe it’s not a consideration,” he said. “If I’m not mistaken, when I pay my personal property taxes for my hangar at the airport, and everybody else does, I think that goes to Arbor Vitae. The reason we pay taxes is to support services in the community.”
Yost said he sees a “disconnect” in the level of fairness if Arbor Vitae gets all that revenue.
“Spends it for their general budget or wherever,” he said, adding it may have been something discussed during ownership meetings in previous years.
“Maybe it’s never been thought of,” Yost said. “I didn’t come here to throw a hand grenade and then leave, believe me.”
With it not being on the agenda, the matter couldn’t be discussed, but after the meeting Minocqua town chairman Mark Hartzheim was asked about Yost’s comments.
“We’ve always been aware the personal property tax went to the town where the property’s located,” he said. “That was always a benefit for them (Arbor Vitae), but it’s located in their town so I think it only makes sense.”
Hartzheim said he personally wouldn’t want to pursue dictating how that property tax revenue is allocated.
“Frankly, there’s also the possibility the state legislature is going to eliminate personal property tax one of these years,” he said. “So, I wouldn’t recommend taking any action or changing what the status quo is.”
Brian Jopek may be reached via email at [email protected]