Project runway

Also proposed in the Charleston County Aviation Authority budget are 15 improvement projects at Charleston International and the agency’s two smaller airports on Johns Island and in Mount Pleasant.

The work could cost $3.2 million, of which the authority would have to pay $1.8 million. The rest of the funding would come from the state Aeronautics Commission and other sources.

The projects include taxiway lighting, fencing and hangar repair, among others.

Charleston County Aviation Authority could see five new employees, 3 percent merit-based raises and life insurance benefits boosted to $50,000 from $10,000 if the airport board approves the proposed $30.5 million spending plan for next year.

The board meets at 10 a.m. today.

Those are all parts of the proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins in July.

The spending plan is about $500,000 more than the current year’s budget, reflecting projected passenger growth of 8 percent to 2.7 million.

For the current year, passenger traffic is up 13 percent over last year.

“We truly are in a rising tide,” airports director Sue Stevens said. “Because of all the positive things going on in the Charleston area, we are seeing increasing activity at the airport.”

Among those positive items is Boeing Co.’s continued growth, JetBlue’s arrival in February and Charleston’s growing national and international prominence as a tourism destination.

Stevens called the spending plan conservative because it’s unknown what effect the $200 million terminal redevelopment project will have on passengers and their spending inside the terminal.

The airport’s proposed budget does not include federal grants, interest and money collected from the airport’s $4.50 fee assessed on each passenger who flies out of Charleston International Airport.

The five new employees include two administrative assistants, a support technician for information technology and two security specialists. Three pay upgrades for assistant manager of ground transportation, network administrator and airport security manager are also proposed.

The new positions would cost about $198,000 while the upgrades would total about $44,000, said Bill New, deputy airports director.

The authority’s full-time employee count would rise to 154 if the airport board signs off on the recommendations made Tuesday by the personnel committee. The airport has six part-time workers.

Though some members had lingering questions, the airport finance committee unanimously approved the budget Wednesday.

“I think it’s a great budget,” airport board member and Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said, pointing out the airport’s growth while decreasing by about 26 cents the costs for airlines to board a passenger.