FORT LEE, Va.– There’s a lot to learn about the commissary surcharge just by considering four new commissaries opened last year on Army, Navy and Air Force installations.
Thanks to the surcharge – the 5 percent added to every commissary customer’s receipt – the military communities at Naval Support Activity Annapolis, Md.; Fort Polk, La.; Maxwell Air Force Base Gunter Annex, Ala.; and Naval Submarine Base New London, Conn., had new stores opened in 2014, replacing well-worn facilities to the tune of $62 million. Surcharge funds paid the construction costs.
“New commissaries are a very visible example of what the surcharge does,” said Larry Bands, chief financial officer for the Defense Commissary Agency. “Less obvious but very important is the fact that the surcharge is the way commissary customers invest in their benefit – providing modern facilities, major facility repairs and store equipment.”
Here are some surcharge facts:
It is not a tax. Surcharge dollars go back into stores, paying for the construction of new and replacement stores, renovations, maintenance and repairs, store equipment, and store-level information technology systems, such as checkouts. In fiscal 2014, the surcharge budget was $290.4 million.
The overall commissary shopper savings of 30 percent or more takes into consideration the 5 percent surcharge.
The surcharge has been set at 5 percent since 1983, and cannot be changed without congressional approval.
DeCA historian, Dr. Peter Skirbunt, notes that the surcharge is not a recent innovation. Its history traces back to 1879 and features various applications and rates through the years leading up to 1983.
“Today, the surcharge is a uniform 5 percent at all DeCA stores, stateside and overseas,” Skirbunt said. “It’s the customers’ stake in their benefit. People paying the surcharge today may someday be stationed at an installation where surcharge dollars have modernized an old store or built a new one. In this way, patrons help improve the benefit for their fellow customers.”