Oppose airport ordinance
September 2, 2010
With growth and construction carnage of the past decade all around us, county government is hard pressed to balance their budget and keep staff wages 25 percent above the private sector, a legacy of a former county manager and successive county commissioners including two current ones led by 12-year veteran and current state Assembly candidate Kelly Kite.
During that past decade, the same management yielded to special interest demands for political bias in what should be business decisions, favoring certain county water funds with water rates just enough to cover operations and debt service, without provision for future maintenance reserves.
When the inevitable need occurred for multi-million dollar overhaul of wells, pipes, filters and the like, they had the gall to try to spread such costs to all county water users, even those whose funds have proper reserves. Fortunately they had no way to attack water users of several improvement districts, towns and private wells. It took 3,000 irate citizens and an upcoming election to temporarily block it.
In retaliation, county management extended the concept of everyone sharing expenses of a few by converting debt of individual water funds to general obligation bonds of all taxpayers in Douglas county to get a lower rate for county water users. Even those on wells will guarantee bond lenders be repaid. Karl Marx would love this county.
County management took a similar approach to the airport, letting users get by without landing fees, revenues barely covering operating expense but insufficient for maintenance. In the past decade they took four times the FAA grants as in the prior 30 years to pay for increasing maintenance, expansion and upgrading needed for corporate users and big jets.
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A victim is Carson Valley’s reputation as a world-class soaring center, as soaring visitors fell by half according to a soaring enthusiast. Some soaring pilots don’t fancy sharing airspace with increasing jet traffic.
Until summer last year they never told Joe Citizen the FAA requires taxpayers to guarantee FAA-financed facilities for 20 years. Last summer they turned that into threats, saying if taxpayers don’t approve a new ordinance this November, the FAA could demand their money back from taxpayers. They didn’t mention they also could increase airport user fees to make it self-sufficient.
Our county manager was seen on local television saying we really like FAA grants. That’s typical of bureaucrats who see federal grants as free money, as if it didn’t come from other citizens’ pockets, and who want FAA money in spite of the risk to taxpayer pockets. So the budgeted $12 million more in the next five years, as much as spent in the last 10 years. Yet airport facilities serve only a small band of users but with powerful influence. It demonstrates the same contempt for taxpayer pocketbooks as with the water fund issue, making all county taxpayers take the financial risk for a few.
Vote no on the airport ballot question in November. And come to the airport debate on Wednesday.
Jack Van Dien
Committee opposing the Airport Ballot Question