Palo Alto Rates Raised – Despite Making Money on Airport

Wednesday, December 13, 2006
County approves airport fee hike
By Jason Green
The Palo Alto (CA) Daily News

The cost of fuel and aircraft parking will rise at the Palo Alto Airport under a business plan approved Tuesday by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. The board approved an annual 7.6 percent increase in tiedown rates and a 10 cent per gallon hike in the fuel flowage fee, but delayed action on a county staff recommendation to return the airport to Palo Alto in 2017, when its 50-year lease runs out. Instead, the board voted to spend the next six months negotiating with the city to explore alternatives.

“The board rightfully rejected the initial proposal to increase tiedown fees over 30 percent,” District 5 Supervisor Liz Kniss wrote in an e-mail to the Daily News. “Because there is a high demand for this airport from residents, I am also pleased my colleagues supported a six-month time frame to reach a mutually agreeable way to keep the airport open after 2017.”

Palo Alto Airport is one of three general aviation airports in the county. The county also operates the Reid-Hillview and South County airports.

Monthly tiedown fees at the airport start at about $115. The actual fee increase may vary depending on the airport’s financial performance. The 10 cent per gallon fuel flowage fee hike is expected to bring in about $60,000 per year, but will increase the hourly cost of operating a typical flight training plane at the airport by as much as $1.50.

County officials claim costs at the airport have been rising faster than revenue. And with rigid city restrictions on airport expansion, fuel flowage fee and tiedown rate increases are the only means of drawing more revenue out of the facility. The city, meanwhile, has contested that position, doing its own audit which showed the airport has been profitable 21 of the last 24 years.

“The proposed fee increases are modest and necessary to avoid generating progressively larger annual operating deficits,” Michael Murdter, director of the county roads and airports department, said in a statement.

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