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XNA looks at separating from City of Highfill

XNA says this sales tax revenue could be used to fund improvement projects as the airport continues to grow.

HIGHFILL, Ark. — Northwest Arkansas National Airport (XNA) is considering de-annexing itself from the City of Highfill and becoming an unincorporated community. This is something the airport board has looked at since it was formed. 

This week, the board voted to look more deeply into the pros and cons of moving forward with this plan.

"This would be a major hit to our funding and as of today, there is no way to make that deficit up," said Highfill Mayor Michelle Rieff.

The City of Highfill has a population of 2,500 but many subdivisions are being built. Mayor Rieff says the city operates on an around $4 million budget with about $500,000 of that budget coming from sales tax generated from the airport.

“We don’t have many businesses and no industry here, so we rely on the sales tax revenue generated at the airport to help fund our city operations,” she said.

XNA spokesperson, Alex English says being their own unincorporated community would mean that sales tax revenue would instead go to the airport to help fund improvements and projects.

"That we could benefit the region with, that we could benefit passengers with, with the possibility of lowering the taxes for their prices," English said. "So, it’s definitely something that’s the main goal of XNA and is something that we definitely take seriously."

English says they have to keep up with the growth of the region.

"The addition of the XNA access road that we are working pretty hard on," she said. "That will bring more traffic out here, a lot of growth. The growth out here is truly inevitable and is another reason why we are looking at more airport improvement projects."

As for the City of Highfill, Mayor Rieff says if the airport goes through with this plan, residents might see an increase in water and sewer rates and street improvements may have to be put on the back burner.

"We are making improvements to our water and wastewater system also we have a volunteer fire department, but it is funded by the city, so we definitely don’t want to pull back on any of those services, but we might have to," Rieff said.

XNA says there is no timeline on when the board will make a decision on the de-annexation.

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