Victorville council votes for Rothschild’s proposal
November 18, 2010 8:33 AM
Natasha Lindstrom

VICTORVILLE • In a controversial move, the City Council has backed away from a longstanding agreement on how tax revenues are re-invested in Southern California Logistics Airport — setting the stage for a looming showdown over Victorville’s control of the airport.

On a 3-2 vote — with Councilmen Ryan McEachron and Rudy Cabriales opposing — City Council agreed Tuesday to pledge only 50 percent of the city’s tax increment generated by businesses within the Victor Valley Economic Development Authority project area back to SCLA when it comes to future bonding. Previously Victorville had dedicated 100 percent of that tax revenue to SCLA projects.

The VVEDA, made up of the four cities of the Victor Valley and the county, was created to oversee redevelopment of a 16-square-mile area impacted by the closure of George Air Force Base.

Victorville Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Rothschild stirred up some controversy at an August VVEDA meeting, when he suggested altering the standing agreement between all local cities for how tax revenues in the VVEDA project area are spent.

VVEDA Chairman 1st District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt responded then by warning if that happened, he would “look at taking the airport authority back under VVEDA” — keeping Victorville as a member but shifting governance powers over the airport to VVEDA.

After learning of Tuesday’s vote, Mitzelfelt stood by previous statements and said he “intends to move forward to make VVEDA an independent operation,” David Zook, chief of staff for Mitzelfelt, said by phone Wednesday. Mitzelfelt wouldn’t yet elaborate on the details of his next steps.

VVEDA — with a project area that includes almost all of Victorville, large chunks of Adelanto and Apple Valley, a portion of Hesperia and patches of unincorporated San Bernardino County — had control over the former George Air Force Base before it became SCLA. The federal government transferred the property to the regional agency soon after George AFB closed in 1992.

VVEDA eventually ceded control of the airport to Victorville. As part of the deal struck then, the other members agreed to hand half of the tax revenue generated by businesses that fall in both their boundaries and VVEDA’s to Victorville for use on projects at SCLA, with the other half going back to each member to spend as they wish on qualified redevelopment projects.

Meanwhile, Victorville committed to dedicating 100 percent of its tax increment back to SCLA.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Councilman Terry Caldwell agreed with Rothschild that it was time to revisit the policy, saying that the 100-percent pledge was simply a city policy decision years ago and was never meant to be a “forever deal.” Councilwoman JoAnn Almond, too, said she thinks now is the time to make the statement that Victorville should contribute only half of their share like other cities.

However, McEachron said he didn’t understand the need to approve the change now, when there’s no excess revenue available from the tax revenues. City Manager Jim Cox has said there likely won’t be such excess revenue for five to seven years.

Cabriales agreed with McEachron, citing his concern for the message the tax change sends about maintaining credibility with the existing bond covenants, which were pledged with all of the revenue.

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Natasha Lindstrom may be reached at (760) 951-6232 or at nlindstrom@VVDailyPress.com.