Sep 21, 2023 - News

NW Arkansas National Airport board OKs cutting Highfill ties

Illustration of an airplane in the air, being held back by a string that a hand is reaching out to cut with a pair of scissors.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Northwest Arkansas National Airport directors voted to begin the monthslong process to de-annex from Highfill, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports,

What they're saying: Highfill collects a 2% sales tax on transactions, which comes out of the airport's bottom line, airport CEO Aaron Burke told Axios last month. Airport officials do not have an estimate for how much sales tax Highfill collects from airport transactions, spokesperson Olivia Moore said.

  • There's also been tension because both the airport's and the Highfill fire and police departments have jurisdiction at XNA, he said.

Background: The Northwest Arkansas National Airport Authority — which includes representatives from Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville and Siloam Springs, plus Benton and Washington counties — operates the airport. Each entity appoints two members to the XNA board of directors.

The other side: Highfill had a population of about 1,865 in 2021, and it's not exactly bustling with sales-tax generators beyond the airport. City officials have opposed the move and expressed disappointment with the decision Tuesday.

The intrigue: Highfill has $7 million in outstanding water and sewer bonds, partly using sales-tax money from transactions on airport property, the Democrat-Gazette reported.

  • The city would continue collecting sales taxes at the airport until the bonds are paid off.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to show  airport officials have not offered an estimate of how much Highfill collects a year from a 2% sales tax at the airport. It was also corrected to show that, after the airport cuts ties, Highfill will continue to collect the tax until its bonds are paid off.


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