Tulsa airports want to shed most of city links
BY KYLE ARNOLD World Staff Writer
Friday, February 15, 2013
2/15/13 at 4:57 PM
Correction: This story originally contained incorrect information about the financial relationship between Tulsa International Airport and the city of Tulsa. The story has been corrected.
Tulsa International Airport and Jones Riverside Airport are on the way to separating most operations from the city of Tulsa.
The Tulsa Airport Authority and Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust on Thursday approved a new lease with the city for airport land and facilities that would bring 150 employees under the sway of the airport boards and move city-provided services in-house.
Airport officials projected the move will save the facilities more than $500,000 a year by moving many of the services they receive from the city under the umbrella of airport staff.
The plan has been presented to the Tulsa City Council, but a new lease and contract for the airport property only requires the approval of Mayor Dewey Bartlett, airport officials said.
Bartlett, who is a member of the Tulsa Airport Authority but was not in attendance Thursday, said city staff are still considering the proposal, but there have been positive results with other public entities moving under private management.
"We have had changes in our relationship with the Tulsa Zoo and the Gilcrease Museum," Bartlett said. "These are good examples of how a change in the way these entities are run can be positive."
The airports have a $56.2 million operating budget for 2013 and a five-year capital improvements plan totaling $125.1 million.
Tulsa International handled about 2.74 million passengers in 2012, a figure that has been falling for more than five years. In 2007 the airport handled more than 3.3 million passengers.
Since the airports don't receive city funding for operations, airports Director Jeff Mulder said the move would help staffers cut costs on services they don't need from the city.
City of Tulsa workers at the airports would become employees of the Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust, while members of the trust board would continue to be appointed by the City Council.
The new deal is part of terms to renew the lease between the Airport Authority and the city that expired last summer. The proposal approved Thursday by the Airport Authority would create a new 25-year lease.
The airports would continue to use the city for some services, such as payroll, and employees would remain in the city's health insurance and pension plans. The city already contracts to perform payroll services for some outside groups.
Mulder said the airport uses city services such as technical support, human resources, financial and legal help, and reimburses the city.
The airport would need to hire some employees for areas such as human resources, he said.
Original Print Headline: Airports want to shed city links
Kyle Arnold 918-581-8380
Mayor Bartlett: A new lease and contract requires only the mayor's approval
Jeff Mulder: He said the airport may need to hire some staff for areas such as human resources.