Sunday, January 08, 2017

San Diego County approves new fee structure for county airports

Photo: Fallbrook Airpark on December 30th.

The fees for County Airports have been revised.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved the first reading and introduction of the ordinance amending the fees on a 4-0 vote Nov. 16 with Greg Cox at a National Association of Counties meeting and voted 5-0 Dec. 14 to approve the second reading and adoption. The new fee structure will be effective Jan. 13 and is expected to increase County Airports revenue by $373,000.

“We’re just updating it,” said County Airports program coordinator Roger Griffiths.

“The fee structure to use our airports was set back in 1975 and is long overdue for an update,” said supervisor Bill Horn. “This rate change will help the county’s eight airports keep up with aviation costs and operational expenses.”

The county owns and operates eight airports. In 2015, Gillespie Field in El Cajon had 215,543 takeoffs and landings (the operations count includes touch-and-go exercises as well as mooring flights); Palomar-McClellan Airport in Carlsbad had 134,936 operations; Ramona Airport had 118,086 flights; the Fallbrook Community Airpark runway was used 20,236 times; Borrego Valley Airport was the site of 18,857 operations; pilots used Agua Caliente Airport on 4,400 occasions; Ocotillo Wells Airport was the location of 2,510 flights, and aircraft approached or departed from Jacumba Airport 968 times. Palomar-McClellan Airport has Federal Aviation Administration Part 139 status, which allows for flights of more than 30 passengers, while the county’s other seven airports are classified as general aviation airports.

The landing fee was last adjusted in 1979 to $0.50 per 1,000 pounds of aircraft weight. That amount will increase to $1.00 per 1,000 pounds of aircraft weight. An exemption for commercial corporate aircraft which are operated exclusively for carrying company executives has been in place, but the difficulty of determining the employment status of every traveler on an aircraft led to the elimination of the exemption. The landing fee increase is expected to generate an additional $131,000 each year for County Airports.

The fuel flowage fees, which are assessed on bulk fuel vendors who provide fuel to County Airports customers, have been $0.04 per gallon for aviation gasoline or jet fuel and $0.08 per gallon for oil since 1975. The new fees will be $0.06 per gallon for aviation gasoline and $0.08 per gallon of jet fuel. The fee for oil has generated minimal revenue and was deemed not worth the recordkeeping efforts, so that fee was eliminated. The revised fuel flowage fees will provide an estimated $230,000 of additional annual revenue.

County Airports charges transient aircraft storage fees for visiting pilots or aircraft owners who park their planes or helicopters overnight on airport property which is not part of a lease. The nightly fees for aircraft weighing less than 12,500 pounds will increase from $3 to $5 at the general aviation airports and to $7 at Palomar-McClellan Airport.

If a plane or helicopter weighs 12,500 pounds or more the fee will be increased to $1 per 1,000 pounds of aircraft weight at the general aviation airports and $1.25 per 1,000 pounds at Palomar-McClellan. A charge for ground support vehicles stored overnight was also added; users will pay $2.50 per axle at the general aviation airports and $3.50 per axle at Palomar-McClellan Airport. Those fee changes are the first since 1979 and are expected to increase County Airports revenue by $12,000 annually.

The exemption of fees for emergencies, special events, and charitable fundraising events was retained, but such a waiver is now limited to 30 days for each event.

The changes also authorized annual cost of living adjustments to vehicle parking fees at Palomar-McClellan Airport.

The county will utilize a deposit to cover staff time costs for lease, lease amendment, license, and license amendment agreements rather than incorporate the costs into the final agreement, which will allow staff costs to be recovered if the agreement is not finalized. If the lease, license, or amendment process is not completed, a portion of the deposit will be returned based on the amount of staff work completed.

The fee for a staff-prepared written proposal for a new lease, license, or amendment will be $300. The application fee for a request for proposal or request for bids will be $150 for no more than $15,000 of annual revenue and $500 for annual revenue above $15,000. The application fee for an airline lease or license agreement will be $750. The processing fee for a lease, license, or amendment is $3,000 if Board of Supervisors approval is needed and $1,500 if approval can be made by the County Airports director.

The changes also cover a scenario in which a contractor ceases to provide airport services such as re-fueling and County Airports takes over the operation. The County Airports director will have the authority to establish a market rate for services which are in competition with other on-airport private services; the use of market rate pricing which would provide a profit for the county is intended to allow other airport businesses and tenants to remain competitive rather than to increase County Airports revenue.

The Fallbrook Airpark Advisory Committee recommended the fee changes Aug. 1 on a 3-0 vote with two members absent. The Palomar Airport Advisory Committee voted 4-0 with two abstentions and three members absent Aug. 18 to recommend the ordinance amendments, and the Gillespie Field Development Council supported the new fee structure on a 5-0 vote Sept. 21.


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