DALLAS — Colorado's plan to award $15 million to the state's airports in 2015 has been reduced by 80% due to faulty forecasting, officials said.
The Colorado Aeronautical Board will send letters to 74 airport managers explaining that the grants for critical repairs will fall to $3 million.
"The timing is incredibly unfortunate," David Gordon, director of the Colorado Division of Aeronautics, wrote in the letter, according to The Denver Post. "We apologize that this situation has placed you in very difficult positions with your communities and stakeholders as you complete your budget and planning cycles."
The letter was written as airport managers prepared to make their grant requests for 2015. More than $19 million was awarded this year through the grant program.
Officials blamed a rapid fall in jet fuel prices for the decline, as revenue from fuel sales funds the grant program. The board also cited falling demand for fuel and overly ambitious programs.
"Our ability to recover from this fiscal situation has been further complicated by the prediction of a continued decline in fuel prices," Gordon wrote.
An eight-member advisory group that includes financial experts from the state Department of Transportation will consider how to manage the funding situation.
The seven-member Colorado Aeronautical Board was created by legislation in 1988 and is responsible for aviation development in Colorado.
The Colorado Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division administers the Colorado Aeronautical Board.
Grants in 2014 included for a $715,000 taxiway construction at the Rifle Garfield County Airport and a $444,000 radio frequency identification system at Denver International Airport.
Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport received $2.14 million from the program between 2011 and 2014, with state funding matched by local and sometimes federal funds to pay for projects ranging from ramp and runway maintenance to utility upgrades, according to the Fort Collins Coloradoan.
The state awarded the Loveland airport at least $400,000 per year through the grant program, after providing it a combined $1.7 million between 1995 and 2010, state records show.
"In the past few years, that grant program has meant simple survival for us," Gary Hanisch, manager of the tiny Spanish Peaks Airfield in Walsenburg, Colo., told the Coloradoan. "I was shocked when were told of the cuts."