ELECTION 2000: Fact and fiction battle in airport race
Know the truth about the Truckee Tahoe Airport District.That’s the title of one of the promotional materials produced by airport board candidates, and it seems to be the theme of this year’s election.The campaign has been heated, with a lot of questionable assertions made about airport operations.In an effort to provide voters with objective information about the district, the Sierra Sun this week dissects claims some of the candidates have made in campaign literature, letters and public statements.Of the eight airport board candidates, two loose alliances have formed. Incumbents Ken “K.B.” Foster and Don Starbard have joined with challenger Bruce Kuecker in advertising and brochures, while non pilot candidates Parvin Darabi, Lynne R. Larson and George Simmons have jointly put out their own flier.Candidate Connie Stevens and incumbent F. Robert Marshall are campaigning independently.Much of the information presented below is contained within public documents.”The taxes we pay to support the airport have increased 51 percent over the past eight years while the amount paid by those who actually use the airport have increased only 11 percent.”- Darabi, Larson, Simmons campaign flyer.Yes and no.Property tax rates have not increased, but property tax revenue, as a whole, has increased 51 percent because of the increased value of property in Nevada and Placer counties. That increase is shared by all the districts who receive allocations of property taxes.From the 1 percent property tax collected from properties within the airport district boundaries, the airport receives 2.9 percent of that 1 percent. Compared to other districts, 2.9 percent of the 1 percent is a small allocation.However, the tax base in both counties has increased dramatically in the last decade because of increased property values.In the second part of this statement, increases in revenue from hangar rents (11 percent) are being compared to property tax revenue increases. Hangar rents are based not on property value but on fluctuations of the consumer price index, which has increased over the last several years. Hangar base rates have remained the same.”All members of the current board are pilots. Less than 2 percent of the district taxpayers are pilots. There is no representation for non-aviator members of our community.”- Darabi, Larson, SimmonsYes and no.While it is true that all the members who currently preside on the airport board possess pilot’s licenses, the percentage of taxpayers in the district who also possess a pilot’s license (2 percent) is unsubstantiated.This percentage is based on assumptions that the number of hangars at the airport occupied by residents of Nevada and Placer county represent half of the total number of registered pilots in the district. There is a long waiting list for hangar space, and more licensed pilots without their own aircraft who live in the area.The percentage is based on registered voters in both Nevada and Placer County, which is not the same as the number of residents who live in the district – which does not include the whole of both counties – and contribute property taxes to the airport.Exact information about the number of licensed pilots living in the district, especially given the large number of second homeowners, is difficult to come by.”The airport was created by taxpayers.”- Foster, Starbard, Kueckercampaign flier.True.The Truckee Tahoe Airport District was established by a vote of the district electorate on May 12, 1958 in accordance with the California Airport District Act. The airport district, as established, is a bi-county special district that includes parts of both Placer and Nevada counties and encompasses approximately 560 square miles.The initial site selection for the airport was finalized in 1961 with the professional assistance and guidance of personnel from the offices of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and State Department of Aeronautics. In 1961 the District received a federal grant for the acquisition of 200 acres of land and the initial construction of a 5,000-by-60-foot runway.”A special Tax Assessment District in Nevada and Placer Counties funds the airport.”- Darabi, Larson, Simmons.Untrue.The airport is classified as a special district, which is not quite the same as a Special Tax Assessment District.The airport shares in the 1 percent of the assessed property value taxes levied by the counties, but that is only one funding source for the airport. Business operations such as fuel and merchandise sales, hangar rentals and leasing other facilities contribute revenues that cover most of the operating expenditures.In addition, the airport received funds from FAA Airport Improvement Grants and California Aeronautic and State Grants last year to fund major capital improvement projects. Lastly, the airport has been accumulating cash reserves to fund future capitol improvements.”The airport receives $1.5 million in local taxes in addition to what they receive from FAA grants.”- Darabi, Larson, Simmons.Mostly true.The airport actually received slightly more than that, $1.65 million in property taxes during the 1999/2000 fiscal year, from all the properties within Truckee Tahoe Airport District.”Airport operations are projected to increase from the present 30,000 annually to 60,000 annually. This means that on the average, a plane will land or take off every five minutes for 14 hours out of every day, for every day of the year.”- Darabi, Larson, Simmons.Yes and no.An airport operation is considered the movement of an aircraft; including landings, takeoff, taxis, etc.According to Truckee Tahoe Airport District Interim General Manager Phred Stoner, the airport log only contains operations beginning with the last six months of 1998. During that time the airport recorded 13,302 operations or movements at the airport. In 1999 the board recorded 22,612 operations, and in 2000 the airport has recorded 25,768 operations as of Tuesday, Oct. 17. Airport operations may indeed reach 30,000 by the end of this year.According to the Master Plan, the airport may reach operations as high as 60,000 per year by the year 2018, if the current growth rate continues.”A 900 square foot airplane hangar rents for $162 per month, while right next door, your basic 200 square foot self-storage unit rents for $160.”- Darabi, Larson, Simmons.True.In January of 1995 the airport standardized the rental price for hangar space per square foot during a series of public meetings. The policy established at that time was that rent would be adjusted annually using the consumer price index. Currently, the price per square foot is $.16. However, the price list for pilots is presented according to hangar door widths because that typically is a greater concern than square footage.In addition to the rental price, tenants must pay possessory interest tax on the hangars to the counties. The owners of the aircraft must pay personal property taxes in the county where the aircraft is based.To qualify for hangar space potential tenants must have a registered aircraft, the aircraft must be insured, and the airport district must be named on the policy as an additional insured.Prices for nearby storage facilities are accurate at approximately $160 for 10-by-20 foot units per month.”The airport’s hangar rates are greater than Carson City hangar rents but less than South Lake Tahoe hangar rents,” Janna S. Caughron, financial controller for the airport district, said.”The airport operates within a balanced budget.”- Foster, Starbard, KueckerTrue.The airport does operate within a balanced budget. To reference another item referred to from this campaign brochure, the airport allows for business operations on airport property which bring in additional revenue. The airport leases portions of its property to businesses such as Federal Express and Frito-Lay, which also pay taxes. These portions of the budget, which are referred to above, cover most of the cost of operating expenditures.”[The airport offers] Travel Convenience – However, this benefits less than 1 percent of our local population.”- Darabi, Larson, Simmons.Unknown.Again, this estimate assumes the number of pilots who rent hangars at the airport (doubled to account for at least one passenger) is half of the number of district constituents who use the airport for travel. This number is compared to the number of registered voters in Placer and Nevada County, but not the number of residents in the district.No information about the number of district constituents who use the airport for travel could be determined. There are no known comparisons between the number of operations at the airport per year compared to the number of operations by district constituents for travel outside the area.”Most of the people who visit the area drive,” said Truckee Chamber of Commerce Visitor Services Coordinator Karin Pierce. “And they don’t fly in because we have a small airport; it’s not like people are flying in from New York. We have the people from Lahontan but they don’t represent the majority. I have no known cases of visitors who flew in [and visited the chamber].””We do pick people up at the airport, but a lot of other people pick them up too,” said Jan Colyer, transportation manager for the Resort at Squaw Creek.”In the summer of July and August we picked up a lot of people,” said a spokesman of a local car rental agency.In August the company logged 59 rentals at the airport, in July 57 rentals, and in September 56 car rentals at the airport.There are several car rental and transportation agencies in the surrounding area, including Hertz Rent-A-Car, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Resort at Squaw Creek Transportation Department, and Truckee-Tahoe Limousine & Tours.”Decreased property values – Studies have shown the presence of an airport ultimately has a negative impact on property values in surrounding neighborhoods.”- Darabi, Larson, Simmons.Yes and no.While the airport noise can have a negative impact on property values, realtors in Truckee say the appreciation rate for local homes has consistently increased.Ron Hemig, a realtor for Prudential Realty, said that without exception the property in Truckee has appreciated in recent years.”The greatest appreciation rate is taking place in Tahoe Donner. Over the last year and a half I’ve seen a 30 to 60 percent appreciation rate. In Glenshire that rate has been about 20 to 40 percent, which is about the same for property in Sierra Meadows and Ponderosa Ranchos.”Hemig said the one exception is Ponderosa Fairway, where property values have increased by only 10 to 20 percent.”Noise – airport noise has a significant negative impact on our environment and the quality of life in our community.”- Darabi, Larson, Simmons.True.Traffic has increased at the airport, and so has airport noise. Stoner has attributed much of the noise to increases in jet traffic. The path of the traffic and the height of the aircraft are also reasons for airport noise. Complaints about airport noise have also increased and reached a high in August this year.The airport board responded to the problem by supplying a separate phone line for airport complaints, and by encouraging a committee to address noise problems. The noise abatement committee formed in May and is an informal group of pilots hoping to reduce air traffic noise.Many of the solutions that have been proposed by the committee and by concerned residents violate grant assurances by the FAA. If the airport implements policy that violates the grant assurances, the federal money the airport received will be revoked.In the 2000/2001 budget the airport board included $10,000 to help fund noise reduction plans, and has included $250,000 for a noise study.
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