According to the Okaloosa Airports Director, Tracy Stage – the Board of County Commissioners’ decision to lower landing fee taxes. These are more formally known as Passenger Facility Charges. They range from $4.50 to $3.00. The tax cut will save the airlines about $1.5 Million per year.
The revenue generated by the tax is highly restricted. The tax revenues generated can only be used for “enhancing safety, security and anything noise-related,” according to Stage, “The fact is, we have 130-acre leasehold on Eglin Air Force Base, there’s only so much property.” Stage told the commission that this tax break would make the airport more competitive in a competitive destination market where it must compete with Pensacola International Airport and Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in Panama City.
So the airlines will get a $1.5 million tax break, courtesy of the airports – because the county simply has no more projects that fit the rules placed on the money by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Currently, the Okaloosa Airports Department has $8.2 million in Passenger Facility Charge money sitting in a bank account unused – because there are no projects to use it on.
The measure passed unanimously, with variable levels of excitement about lowering taxes on the airlines – returning the levy to levels not seen since 1992.
“Chairman, I feel like I should light fireworks. Yes, it should make national news. This should be on Fox News tonight,” Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel said, “In fact, if you’ve tried to make reservations for any airline, you’ve probably been as shocked as you are at the gas pump.”
Vice-Chairman Nathan Boyles, gave a more measured response to the news. “Obviously, I would maybe slightly more circumspect about how directly the impact to the individual consumer will be. Ultimately, that’s up to the airlines as to whether they put it in their pocket or whether they give it back to the consumer, much like a gas tax holiday. But the point is, it’s still the right thing to do.”