(St. Louis—April 16, 2019) St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green was stunned today when Mayor Lyda Krewson and Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed blocked a vote on refunding St. Louis Lambert International Airport bonds, issued in 2009, that will save taxpayers in excess of $20 million.
“It is fiscally irresponsible for Krewson and Reed to attempt to derail a financial transaction that will produce a savings in excess of $20 million dollars,” said Comptroller Green.
Refunding the 2009 bonds, which were issued at a rate of 5 percent, will leverage favorable market conditions with rates now less than 3 percent. That puts in excess of $20 million back into the airport’s coffers that otherwise would go to pay off debt. The savings would allow the airport to become more competitive and reduce airline costs.
Mayor Krewson and Board President Reed blocked the measure’s passage, despite the obvious advantages to pursuing refunding.
In 2018, the airport earned two credit rating upgrades—a strong indicator that the market has confidence in airport management and operations. Airport management approved a 5-year capital plan to fund capital improvements, improve operations and improve the airport experience for travelers—allowing it to charge airlines less
Over the past few years, Lambert has clawed its way back from the impacts of the 2008 recession. With three straight years of passenger growth, in 2018 the airport surpassed 15 million total passengers for the first time in a decade. St. Louis is also one of the top growth markets in number of seats, supported by new destinations, upgrades to larger aircraft and increased frequencies of flights to and from established markets.
Lambert’s cost-per-enplanement has been dropping—from $13.77 in 2013 to $11.13 in 2017, and $8.87 in 2018. Refunding the 2009 bonds could lower the cost further, making it even more attractive for airlines compared with other medium and large airports.
Comptroller Darlene Green is the chief fiscal officer of the City of St. Louis and is charged with safeguarding the city’s credit rating and with protecting taxpayer dollars. Visit www.stlouis-mo.gov/comptroller to learn more about the Office of the Comptroller.