Earlier this week I wrote a goofy opinion piece on the Volusia County Council’s recent implementation (read: rubberstamp) of a $2.50 per day “Customer Facility Charge” levied on those who use rental car agencies at the Daytona “International” Airport.
According to airport officials – and County Manager Jim Dinneen – the fee is expected to generate an annual “Cash Flow” of +/- $850,000.00 – funds which have been earmarked for a $12-million-dollar cosmetic “modernization” of a perfectly serviceable facility; to include improved rental car facilities, parking lots, and access roads.
It’s okay, because every other airport in the free world is doing it – and vacationers and business travelers never remember being fleeced, anyway. Right?
According to our always hyper-exuberant County Manager, the rental car user fee is part of a mysterious “larger strategy” (one I’m sure we will learn all about during an off-the-agenda “Grand Reveal” at a yet-to-be-determined County Council meeting after Little Jimmy gets all the benefactors lined-up.)
“We have a plan in place that we are moving forward with to modernize our airport and it will be second to none when it’s done,” Mr. Dinneen announced.
In other words, Dinneen believes our elected officials are too addle-brained to understand the “big picture” mechanics of a $12-million-dollar expenditure – so we’re all asked to simply accept the fact he has a “plan” in place – a cryptic “larger strategy” – that “we” are moving forward with.
I’m pretty sure that’s not how any of this is supposed to work.
Unfortunately, our elected ‘leadership’ is once again just along for the ride. This proves the tail isn’t just wagging the dog in Deland – it’s dish-ragging our entire elected body around the Council Chambers like the pathetic political weaklings they are.
When the original article appeared in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, reporter Dustin Wyatt told us that the user fee, “. . .is expected to generate $850,000 a year for the airport that will (be) used to help fund a number of interior and exterior projects in the near future.”
So, a smart friend of mine took the liberty of doing the math: $850,000 per year, divided by 365-days, equals $2,328.76 a day, on average. Divide that by the $2.50 per day user fee – and airport agencies would need to rent an average of 931 cars per day to meet the revenue projection.
In addition, our friend contacted rental agencies doing business at DIA and discovered they have a combined inventory of approximately 250 cars on-site.
So, if we take all the cars in inventory and apply the national rental average of 25-days per car/per month – that’s 300 rental days per year/per car – or 75,000 rental days on total available inventory each year.
If the entire vehicle inventory at DIA were rented virtually all the time – the County’s new Customer Facilities Charge will only generate approximately $187,500 annually.
That’s not chicken feed – but it’s not $850K either.
I called bullshit on the numbers provided by Volusia County – and threw a shit-fit on this forum (as I am wont to do) explaining to anyone who would listen that I felt we were being openly lied to by Mr. Dinneen and his senior administration.
I also suggested that, perhaps, someone (like our local media outlets?) should attempt to peel the onion on this one and find out why we – and our elected officials – are being force-fed inflated revenue estimates on a seemingly innocuous airport project?
In response, the News-Journal reached out to Volusia County for an “explanation.”
Unfortunately, their dogged investigative efforts were stymied by a staff spokesperson (not our elected representatives or our highly-paid county manager) who clarified, in essence, that Barker is an ignorant shitheel who doesn’t understand the concept of “transaction days.”
You see, according to spokeswoman Shelley Szafraniec, if a customer rents a vehicle for seven days, the $2.50 user fee would total $17.50.
Oh! I get it now – $2.50 X 7 = $17.50! (Don’t I feel like an asshole?)
And the airport “estimated” 396,116 “transaction days” in 2016.
“So, here’s the formula: 396,116 X $2.50 = $990,290. Airport officials reduced that total by 15 percent to be conservative ($841,745) (?) and then rounded up to $850,000 (?).”
See Barker, you dipshit, there’s nothing to see here!
Have another drink, you ignorant fop, and stop questioning important people about the obvious.
It’s simple math – don’t you understand the concept of “transaction days”?
Wait a minute. (Doing my best Columbo impression.)
Why in the hell are “airport officials” still estimating rental car transactions for 2016 in late August of 2017?
Is it possible that in some weird effort to determine the operational and economic effectiveness of services at DIA, our highly-paid “airport officials” might drop by the old kiosk and ask the rental car agencies how many cars they rented last year?
The problem is – despite Ms. Szafraniec’s best efforts to spin this dry turd into something palatable – 396,116 “transaction days” would mean DIA car agencies collectively rented 1,085 vehicles per day – every day – in 2016 (for Volusia County accountants, that’s 396,116 “transaction days” divided by 365-days. It’s worse if you use the national rental average.)
Now, I seriously doubt Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport – one of the busiest hubs in the world – rents a collective 1,000 cars per day. I could be wrong.
Once our intrepid Volusia County spokeswoman sorted out the mathematical wheat from the chaff on the rental car figures – the News-Journal boldly pressed the stewards of our hard-earned tax dollars about why this is considered a “fee” or a “charge” and not a good, old-fashioned “tax.”
Well, Ms. Szafraniec looked down her nose at our local newspaper and explained, “It is not a tax, because of its purpose.”
To make sure we all understand, the Volusia County Office of Media Relations trotted out yet another “spokesperson” from their virtual clown car of spin doctors and took the News-Journal to task for adding the word “tax” in the headline of the story announcing what is clearly a “Customer Facilities Fee.”
According to spokeswoman Joanne Magley, “On the other hand, a user fee is for users that wish to use the product or service, and solely benefits the users that choose to utilize the service. The public views the word tax as negative.”
Hey, News-Journal – what part of that don’t you get? “A user fee is for users that wish to use a service.”
(See page 12 of the Rocko & Sluggo School of Government Mass Communications: ‘How to camouflage a tax by any other name – and sell it lock, stock and barrel.’)
Folks, there was a time when the only thing government truly feared was the public exposure of a free and unfettered press.
That was when media outlets demanded answers directly from the decision-makers – especially when they were caught with their pants down – and weren’t “put off” by insulating spokespersons and “media relations” talking heads.
Look, I’m not knocking Dustin Wyatt – he’s a good young reporter with a very bright future, and he works for a much larger system – my issue is with the relatively new general acceptance that permits government entities to openly lie to their constituents with no apparent fear of public accountability.
Especially when their sketchy math and dubious “estimates” are diametrically opposed to the facts.
Trust me. This rental car user fee scheme stinks – and Jim Dinneen is, once again, selling us a slick bill of goods.
Because he can.
Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal