County commissioners fired the Butler County Regional Airport administrator on Monday, citing revenue problems and differences in management styles.
Ron Davis, who has been at the airport nearly 18 years, declined comment. His termination is effective Friday.
Commissioner Don Dixon said they could not allow the airport to continue to be a drain on county coffers.
“If we are not able to change the operations or change the revenue stream, we have to make the books balance,” he said. “The way to make the books balance is to cut what you can cut, and the first thing you can cut is personnel.”
At every budget hearing with Davis for the past several years, the commissioners have shown frustration that Davis hasn’t been able to make the airport financially viable.
County Administrator Charlie Young told the Journal-News when the tax budgets came in recently, they knew they could no longer sustain Davis’ $93,710 annual salary. With benefits the total general fund outlay is $110,310.
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“There has been a continuing effort to meet our budget goals, and we have come to the conclusion we cannot meet our budget goals with the expense we’ve had of the administrator’s position,” Young said. “We just don’t have the funding for that position at the level we’ve been paying.”
Young said general fund monies have bailed the airport out to the tune of $40,000 to $50,000 annually, up to as much as $100,000. That doesn’t include the $155,000 in debt payments every year.
During the last couple budget hearings with Davis, commissioners have expressed extreme frustration he has been unable to attract more businesses to the airport to better the bottom line.
“We’re not sitting here saying ‘Cut your budget, cut your budget, cut your budget,’” Dixon said during the hearing last year. “We’re saying ‘What can we do to increase usage of that facility?’ I haven’t heard anything, not one thing have I heard as a suggestion on how to do that. This is the second or third time we’ve been at this table and had this discussion.”
Frustration continues over airport budget
Performance reviews for Davis over the past couple years show scores of 251 in 2015 and 255 last year out of a possible 325.
Commissioner T.C. Rogers would only say Davis lost his job because “we just had a difference of management styles.”
In the short term, the county is asking the fixed base operator Cincinnati Jet, Development Director David Fehr and other staff to fill the void.
Dixon said the long term plan is to seek a part-time, contracted administrator for Hogan Field.
“We’re looking at part-time contractor with no benefits at all,” Dixon said.