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Editor, The Beacon:

I read that the Volusia County Council decided to extend SunRail to DeLand and The West Volusia Beacon enthusiastically endorsed their decision as “for the good of the people.” Sounds great! A few questions though — lots of zeros in government finance numbers scare me.

Good for which people? Is it good for the people in construction companies, the riders, the politicians, or the people who have to actually pay for all those numbers, which include those many scary zeros?

Currently, the facts disprove the claim. SunRail operates in Orlando, and Orange, Seminole, Osceola, and a part of Volusia counties. It has an annual $58 million operating cost. Its yearly revenues are only $18 million. Other people’s money (from other state and federal taxes) pays for the $40 million annual deficit.

This year, paying the difference between the revenues and expenses was to become a local responsibility, but has been delayed. Had it not, Orlando would have been short. It was considering a new 1-cent sales tax on top of all their other local taxes to cover their costs. 

The day of that tax burden will yet arrive for those taxpayers.

What about Volusia County? In 2024 or 2025, Volusia County will assume local responsibility for our new DeLand SunRail costs.

Given the other counties’ known operating and revenue data, it is clear that fares cannot sustain operations. Even in the densely populated Orlando market, rider fares cover less than 30 percent of the annual operating costs. Without other local funding, SunRail is not sustainable there.

What about DeLand? What is Volusia’s forecast cost? Who is providing the local funding to pay that bill? Property owners? Businesses? Tourists? Road tax? Sales tax? Income tax?

Despite the County Council’s hallucinations and The Beacon’s emotional hype, the DeLand SunRail sounds like it is yet another expensive, taxpayer burden that benefits very few at the cost of everyone else.

All other distractions aside, these “scary large numbers with lots of zeros” are not an academic discussion. They are real numbers and should scare every taxpayer in Volusia County — those numbers become our tax liability in three years.

“For the good of the people”? You certainly have not convinced me.

Robert Hoelscher

DeLand

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