A Tax By Any Other Name

Part of the problem of trying to stay as topical as possible (as in matters of current interests, not a cream), is that as time goes by, it may become less relevant. Keeping that in mind, here is an issue in the upcoming (4/10/07) Longmont City Council meeting: Revised Airport Rules and Regulations by Code.

I was watching a recently Tivo’d council meeting when the idea of charging Mile Hi Skydiving (MHS) a $1 per jumper fee came up. The councilmember for my ward, Doug Brown, is a nice guy that I’ve had numerous occasions of having friendly conversations with. His eyes lit up with the possibility of this fee, he was doing some fuzzy math figuring out the thousands of dollars that could come the city’s way.

He wasn’t sure how many jumps were made, was under the impression that these jumps cost perhaps ten times what they really did, and initially suggested a percentage of the per jump cost. When the company’s representative told him that most jumps were less than $25, which must’ve been a major downer, the idea of a flat rate per jump was then floated. This arbitrary number was $1 per jump.

Somewhere along the line, somebody must’ve thought MHS was on board with this idea. It appears the Airport Advisory Board was led to believe this when they unanimously voted in favor of adding this $1/jump fee into the rules and regulations. I would’ve hoped that someone on the board would’ve seen this for what it was – a user fee, and discrimination by unnecessary taxation. But they didn’t, and this idea just kept on moving forward and now comes before City Council. The Airport Advisory Board’s vote is just more ammunition for the city to justify sticking it to the airports major business. At first I chalked it up to “going along to get along”, but is that the price of doing business in Longmont? Sounds more like the mafia.

So where is the line drawn? $1? How about $5, maybe $10? How about a landing fee? Airplanes actually use the pavement, it’s not as if jumpers burrow holes that get deeper every time they hit the earth. See the silliness in this yet? It’s just another way to gouge more money out of someone, while this probably doesn’t happen with other businesses. The airports biggest detractor sells vegetables, should we charge a “per pickle” fee? I’m sure you can think of all kinds of similarly ludicrous examples of this idea gone amuck, but you get the point.

According to the attorney representing MHS (another necessary expense thanks to the city), they pay “the bulk of the taxes necessary to keep the Airport in operation. Although MH accounts for only 2% of the operations, it pays more than 50% of the fuel flowage fees, 90% of the sales taxes, and a substantial portion of the use taxes generated at the airport. To add to this already significant tax burden would be discriminatory, unreasonable and unfair.” Sounds like they got a good lawyer. City staff played semantics with the first part of this statement, saying that Sales and Use taxes don’t support the airport, which is true, it sadly goes into the General Fund for everything BUT the airports needs. To me it seemed obvious that the meaning of that sentence was found in the latter wording, “to keep the Airport in operation”, with the attorney alluding to all of the fee’s paid by MHS. One mans fee’s are another mans taxes. An important side note, MHS already donates $2 per jump into a fund that benefits the city, on top of all the other fee’s they pay.

MHS has kept open the possibility of leasing the land where the drop zone sits at a fixed agreed upon amount, not this “unilateral imposition” of a fee. Problem is, the cat’s been let out of the bag and there may be no turning back. Mr. Brown and City Council are already counting this money as revenue, to rescind it would almost feel like money lost, although it’s never been received. It’s probably already built into the budget! The Airport Advisory Board has naively given this idea its blessing. The FAA, who isn’t about to say no to opening the Pandora’s Box that is user fees, has basically said it’s not going to block this imposition of fees. City staff has directed council to approve this, odds are they will. Funny, we’d just heard at the last advisory board meeting that some members of council and staff appeared to have a more positive view of the airport. Warming up due to cold hard cash, nice.

If you have an opinion on this, regardless if you like the airport or skydivers or not, let your councilmember’s know.

About Chris Rodriguez

Chris is the editor/publisher of LightningRod Blog - as well as founder/editor of Wrongmont, Longmont Advocate, Vote!Longmont, Longmont Politics, the LightningRod Radio Network, as well as being the original Longmont Examiner. Chris is a writer and talker - whether it be blogs, podcasts, music, or public speaking. When he's not heard on Air Traffic radio, he can be heard on his podcasts or seen in the local paper causing trouble.
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