Hesperia officials fear loss of influence while paying taxes to support operations at the airport
By GRETCHEN LOSI and LARRY RAND
The Victorville (CA) Daily Press APPLE VALLEY – The town wants to take over County Service Area 60, known as Apple Valley Airport. But Hesperia and county officials have objections.
Apple Valley asked the Local Agency Formation Committee in January for permission to dissolve CSA 60. If LAFCO approves, the town will gain control of the airport.
But Hesperia has told LAFCO that if the district is dissolved, the city wants all its tax money back.
Local taxpayer dollars built and maintained the airport, which is valued at about $12.5 million. The district has received tax revenues for 36 years from parts of Victorville, Apple Valley, Hesperia and unincorporated San Bernardino County.
Apple Valley officials believe they can do a better job running the airport than the county. “Local government by the county is grade B, rather than grade A. Management by the Town Council would be closer to the people, more effective and efficient,” Apple Valley Mayor Bob Sagona said.
Hesperia City Manager Robb Quincey said his city’s officials fear that Hesperia property owners will no longer have “decision-influencing input” about the airport and will lose the tax revenue they have paid in.
“We have no problem with them running the airport, but if they want to acquire it, then the tax equity that’s been built up by the communities, including Hesperia, should get paid back,” Hesperia Mayor Tad Honeycutt said. “(Apple Valley) will have five voting members to our one, and they get the ultimate vote as to whether or not they will accept the person we want to put in that seat.”
Sagona said the airport would be run by a commission ? he suggested five members – and that Hesperia would get one vote.
According to Honeycutt, Hesperia residents paid out approximately $200,000 in taxes to the airport this fiscal year alone. Under the proposal submitted by the town of Apple Valley, High Desert property owners will continue to pay the taxes.
Hesperia officials stated that the revenues of the airport will continue to increase as the High Desert continues to grow, and they are concerned because all the town has offered is its word that the tax dollars will be used strictly for the airport.
In a May 6 letter to the LAFCO Executive Officer Kathleen Rollings-McDonald, Apple Valley said its plans are for a general aviation airport and that an airport commission will be composed of residents of the town as well as residents outside town boundaries.
Hesperia officials also questioned Apple Valley’s motivations.
Another May 6 letter sent to Rollings-McDonald from Apple Valley’s economic and community development director, Kenneth J. Henderson, states the town anticipates “a mutually beneficial relationship with the Southern California Logistics Airport and the city of Victorville, and wants to be in the position of benefiting from the marketing clout and market position of SCLA.”
Both Sagona and Victorville spokeswoman Yvonne Hester said there were no plans for a formal business arrangement between Apple Valley and either SCLA or Victorville. “Victorville is in the heavy plane business; we’re in the light plane business,” Sagona said. “We would probably have an agreement that they’d send light plane business to us and we’d send heavy plane business to them, but there are no plans at this time to sign a contract with Stirling International or Southern California Logistics Airport.”
Stirling Airports International is SCLA’s private partner in marketing and development.
First District Supervisor Bill Postmus will hold a public hearing on the issue in the Aster-Cactus Room of the Desert Mountain Educational Service Center, 17800 Highway 18, Apple Valley at 6 p.m. Monday.