02-14-2009, 12:13 AM #1
Bed tax spike in Walton County, Florida [update: 1/2 cent approved]
Bed tax spike on table in Walton
SANTA ROSA BEACH - The Walton County Tourist Development has agreed to have more talks about a proposal to raise the bed tax from 4 cents to 5 cents, and will have another meeting to discuss how best to use the more than $2 million in additional revenue.
Walton County commissioners still must approve the bed-tax increase.
Commissioner Sonny Mares, the TDC's executive director, said there was discussion at Wednesday's meeting about using the funds to help pay for a complex that would include sports fields, an amphitheater and performing-arts venue. That has been on the county's wish list for years, Mares said.
But the TDC more likely would join forces with Bay County officials to attract a low-cost airline to the Panama City-Bay County International Airport, which is slated to open next May.
Every cent of the bed tax generates more than $2 million. Mares said he does not expect that number to decline despite the sluggish economy.
Airport officials are pursuing numerous low-cost airlines, and the TDC wants to "be in a position to assist with marketing to draw new business to the area," Mares said.
Every airline has its own strategy to build business, so TDC members must sit down with the airline's marketing team to discuss the best ways to do that, he added.
"Currently, our TDC reaches a 12-hour driving radius, but there's other markets further out that a larger marketing campaign could reach," he added. "Any (airline) carrier would want to bring in new business and open up this area to their business."
Mike Chouri, general manager for Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, said any additional bed-tax revenue should be used to help market Northwest Florida. Walton, Okaloosa and Bay counties must reach some kind of agreement because if Walton County uses the added revenue for that purpose, "the other counties have to do the same thing."
The bed tax in Okaloosa County recently went up to 5 cents. Bay County's is now 3 cents but may increase to 5 cents.
Chouri said he is neither for nor against the tax increase.
"It just needs to be made very clear exactly where the money is going to go," he said.
Raising or diverting taxes "is not the answer to everything," Chouri added. "But if we have to do it, we have to do it right."
Lisa Bulriss, sales director at the Marriott Courtyard Sandestin at Grand Boulevard, said she believes a bed-tax increase is a good idea if it would attract more tourists.
"I think if (the bed-tax increase) was to bring in a new air carrier, that would benefit us," she said. "Any way that we can help get more people in ..."
The Walton County bed tax last was raised in 2004 from 3 cents to 4 cents. The TDC used part of the new revenue to help fund beach nourishment.
Mares said that increase initially met some opposition because residents mistakenly thought it would affect their properties.
"It is only a tax for people who come here for short-term stays in hotels or town homes or condominiums who rent them short-term," he said. "And the investment is reinvested in building more business, which is what we need to do now; more business to help restaurants, to help hotels, to help professionally managed properties and individuals who have invested in rental homes and rent them out to tourists."
Bed tax spike on table in Walton | county, tdc, business - News - Northwest Florida Daily News
02-14-2009, 06:54 PM #2
The TDC leaders need to go and take a course in economics. A 25% tax increase? Come on, this has got to be a joke. As the article says that penny will be taking 2 million dollars out of the private sector and putting into the public sector. 2 million dollars that could be spent in our eateries and bars, at our lodging establishments, in our stores. Economic experts in this area repeatedly use a multiplier of 7 when calculating impact of economic activity. Is this the time to shrink the local economy by 14 million dollars?
I understand that they want to use these dollars to entice Northwest Airlines to come into the area. Maybe it is just me, but I would think that if Northwest Airlines could make any money around here, we would not have to suffer a 14 million dollar economic loss to get them to show up.
Glad I am not trying to rent my vacation home in sowal.
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02-15-2009, 01:31 AM #3
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Oh great. I find out about this on SoWal.comGo Seminoles...fight team fight...SCALP'EM!!
02-15-2009, 02:32 PM #5
Wow, I thought when they raised it to 4 percent, they told us that was the highest it would ever go, most the state allowed.
As for the rest, I cannot even get started on what I think of the TDC or I might say something I'll later regret.Susan Horn
02-15-2009, 03:54 PM #6
What a moronic idea. It is not "pennies" when you pay $2K for a week's rent. Owners are alredy lowering rates and giving heavy discounts just to keep their places booked. Guess what? A tax increase would just mean they would have to lower them more. What a nice thank-you to the people who fill the county's coffers with bed taxes and property taxes!
I can't believe that a) a county official is actually talking about what is on a "wish list," and b) they don't understand that in this climate, a tax increase would hurt not help. It will NOT go unnoticed. People are sending me offers to rent my place for 40 or 50 percent off of the rates we just lowered -- rates that already have gone down by about 15-20 percent since 2004. Another example that the branding-obsessed folks at the TDC don't seem to get it.Proud to practice indoctrination
at least when it comes to the GATOR NATION
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The original proposal in late 2003 was to raise it to 5%. However, by the time it went before the BCC in early 2004, it had been decided that 4% would be more palatable at the time.
I'm still reeling that I read it first on SoWal.Go Seminoles...fight team fight...SCALP'EM!!
02-15-2009, 04:38 PM #8
Is there a reason why they want to whomp the 'goose that laid the golden egg' upside the head w/a shovel during a recession/depression?
Did they miss the fact that last year's "staycation" will be this year's "naycation"?
02-16-2009, 06:57 PM #10
They, and by "they" I mean most of our local government officials, do not view it as a significant tax increase (strange, since they are overwhelmingly Republican) because they do not view it as "our" money because "we" locals are not paying it. I have, repeatedly, heard not only the local officials but the state ones as well, refer to grant money as if it were free money from a tree, or fell from the sky. Oh, well, never mind that grant money is made up of tax revenue that came from somewhere. Just not here, I suppose
It's the same mindset at work.
TDC Approves Resolution for 5th Cent Bed Tax Use | pcbdaily.com
TDC Approves Resolution for 5th Cent Bed Tax Use
In what was quite possibly the quickest TDC meeting that I’ve ever attended, the Panama City Beach Tourist Development Council unanimously (with the exception of Buddy Wilkes - who is out of the country) approved the adopted resolution to the use of the 5th cent of the bed tax. The tax increase is up for vote by the Bay County Commissioners tomorrow morning.
Florida statute mandates that TDC money levied through bed tax collections cannot be used “seat-guarantees”, but can be used for marketing purposes. Spefically with the application proposed, the money will be used for cooperative advertising with the low cost airlines targeting potential visitors to our area that would use the low cost carrier(s) that would fly into our new airport. If the increase in approved tomorrow this will allow 15 months of time to market to future potential feeder markets and hopefully give a low-cost carrier additional incentive and comfort in coming to the new Panama City Bay County International Airport.
Bay County Commissioner Ken Nelson, who is also a member of the Tourist Development Council said that he thought this would be much more acceptable to the County Commission.
One of the stipulations to the resolution is that at the end of 5 years, the TDC would need to come back to the County Commission to vote on the 5th cent again, otherwise, it would expire.
02-16-2009, 08:00 PM #12
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Did someone come out with an IDIOT pill that I haven't heard about????
Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.Which community along 30A shall we pillage this evening?....gttbm
02-16-2009, 08:36 PM #13
Note that Kurt's article refers to Bay County, which is jumping from 3% to 4% to 5% in the space of about two months.
Administratively speaking, that's going to be a cluster.Go Seminoles...fight team fight...SCALP'EM!!
02-16-2009, 08:36 PM #14
02-16-2009, 11:37 PM #15
Okay, for one the TDC, Tourist Development Council, doesn't seem to know it's own name anymore. Tax them to death because bed tax collections are down and we need to advertise to find new people dumb enough to pay a 13% tax on their vacation.
Perhaps it's time that the TDC stopped appointing it's own successors, a violation of the law, and give the power back to the BCC.
The TDC does not appoint its successors, it is only a recommending body to the BCC. It recommends a successor to the BCC. The BCC does (and always has) select/choose the people who serve on the board of the TDC. The BCC has the right to go against the recommendation of the TDC and approve whomever they wish.
As a side note, the last selections included Jennifer Steele Saunders of the Cultural Arts Association.
THIS IS NOT A COMMENT FROM THE TDC, ONLY SOMEONE WHO KNOWS THEIR PROCESSES.
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02-17-2009, 07:02 PM #17
02-18-2009, 10:01 AM #18
02-18-2009, 10:08 AM #19
Who are the 2?
02-19-2009, 09:19 AM #20
Update from Bay County, it passed 4-1. I have posted a couple of sections so that I won't get in trouble for a post and run..
Bay County Commission Passes 5th Cent Bed Tax Increase for Panama City Beach | pcbdaily.com
"Last month the Bay County Commission passed with a majority vote to increase the bed tax collected from 3 cents to 4 cents. In order to pass the 5th cent increase, a super majority vote was required, that is to say that 4 of the 5 commissioners had to vote in approval. The lack of the super majority support on the 4th cent influenced Commissioner Mike Thomas to request that voting on the 5th be tabled until the regularly scheduled meeting that was held today so that his fellow commissioners could further educate themselves on the ramifications of this decision."
"This 5th cent will be used for advertising, in a cooperative relationship with an airline(s) that may have an interest in flying into our new airport. For example: a string of advertisements in Chicago that would advertise special rates with X airline on trips to Panama City Beach, FL. This would give incentive to the airline that their flights here would be well occupied and increase the number of people exposed to our beautiful area."
02-19-2009, 12:12 PM #22
If you won't name names then it is rumor. Obviously they have not gone on record. Keeping it secret allows them to change their mind.
02-19-2009, 09:32 PM #23
...I'm getting a feeling deep in my gut that this bed tax increase is already a "done deal"...either that, or I got a bad oyster at lunch today.
02-20-2009, 08:20 AM #24
A rumor is an unverified account. Not my problem if you are choosing not to verify it. I trust both individuals to be telling me how they feel. Like anything else, I am sure it could change. But I am not going to assist the tax and spend union supporting liberals by painting targets on their backs so that pressure can be unduly focused on them.
02-20-2009, 08:22 AM #25
02-20-2009, 01:39 PM #26
Of course someone needs to vote against it--maybe determined by a lively game of "Rock-Paper-Scissors?"
02-20-2009, 04:47 PM #27
All of the money raised by the tax increase in Bay County is planned to be spent attracting an airline. Only part of the money raised in Walton County by the 1-cent increase would go toward attracting an airline. More would be spent as an investment in the area to attract additional tourists and ultimately, businesses.
Projects mentioned are a sports complex and a performing arts center. A sports complex (ball fields, swimming pool, etc.) would not only benefit local familes, but events such as a major youth soccer tournament (1st annual event currently being planned) drawing teams from across the southeast, would fill up a lot of rentals and benefit local businesses by creating additional revenue.
Such a complex would also offer the space to properly conduct even larger outdoor events throughout the year - think music festival, car show, etc.
A performing arts center has obvious benefits for culture and economic opportunities, while benefitting existing companies like the Seaside Rep.
02-20-2009, 06:52 PM #29
But in the short term -- and this may be the very short term, we just don't know -- I will have a very hard time explaining it to the renters that I deal with directly. I am certain it will hurt property owners during a time when deep discounts seem to be in order for many of those who rent out their places.Proud to practice indoctrination
at least when it comes to the GATOR NATION
02-20-2009, 06:55 PM #30
02-20-2009, 06:57 PM #31
02-20-2009, 07:06 PM #32
Get those Beach (tm) digs in now. My understanding is that it won't be around much longer.
02-20-2009, 08:19 PM #33
02-20-2009, 08:21 PM #34
02-20-2009, 08:29 PM #35
No mention of sports complex here:
Bay County Votes "Yes" on Bed Tax Increase
and nothing here
wmbb.com - Tourist Development Council Pushes to Collect
A TDC member has mentioned it to me as a possibility and it was discussed during the election season with one commissioner candidate that I am aware of. And if the dollars were committed for such a complex, I would have to seriously rethink my position. But it does appear that the TDC is contributing $25K toward the study of a low cost airline. At least that is what I am getting from the last news story.
02-20-2009, 10:42 PM #36
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02-21-2009, 09:25 PM #37
Now Robert on a more personal note, it is obvious we do not agree all a lot of things and I have attempted to remain civil and will continue to. So if at anytime I have offended you, I apologize.
my post about the sports complex. There are 2 different TDCs involved - one for Bay County and one for Walton County. Bay County already has a sports complex - Frank Brown Park. The reports you posted refer to Bay County.
03-20-2009, 08:10 AM #39
Maybe they will use the extra tax receipts to wash comforters after each rental.
Know what? I am hereby on strike. I will not rent another property in Walton county. I will take my biz elsewhere. I am not (yet) a property owner down there so this is a tax on me. I am getting a little tired of the "soak the tourists" mentality. Of course, then there is the reservation fee charged by (ahem) some property managers. Boycotting them too."It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time."
03-20-2009, 11:16 PM #40
Mary Brown, TDC board member said that we need to remember that this tax is not on us, it is on the tourists so we should not oppose it.
I think she is also trying to organize a tea party against unfair taxation. So much for principles.
Sonny Mares said the dollars would be used to help get a low cost, SW, airline into either Okaloosa or Bay County. Okaloosa has not shown an interest according to Sonny. According to Okaloosa they have not been asked.
Median income of tourists in Bay County is 76K, Walton is 142K, and Okaloosa is 122K, I think. Was hard to hear. Do not know why we are chasing the cheap seats. I guess Walton needs some of those adult stores on 30 A like that have on Front Beach Rd.
Not going to matter. With opposition against the corridor authority building the chances of seeing a road through Peach Creek to the Bay County Airport are going to evaporate as the St. Joe influence wanes. So any marketing that the Walton County tourist fund is just going to help fill up the cheap seats in Bay County.
03-21-2009, 08:32 AM #41
with Okaloosa already at 5% and Bay voting to up from 3 to 5% you really do not think that Walton will hold off and not raise their bed tax. Look at March income from last year. Walton's TDC take was a 13% increase and Okaloosa'a was a whooping 30% increase with their 5% tax already in effect. That's money left on the table in the eyes of any good monkey see monkey do taxing authority.
03-21-2009, 11:07 PM #42
I think it is possible. Pressure has already reduced them from seeking a 25% tax increase to only seeking a 12.5% tax increase. And that did not win unanimous approval of the TDC Board.
I have learned one thing, people need to more closely scrutinize the information that the TDC is releasing to the public. Mares places this back on a study or studies that they are paying to have done, but those studies are taking some very interesting liberties with the information. Mares using these numbers is just showing how ridiculous the thinking of the TDC is. They are quoting economic numbers for Walton County that I do not believe were obtained by the whole panhandle. If that amount of economic activity actually took place in the tourism industry, every resident in this county would be a millionaire by now.
The Defuniak Herald » TDC POISED TO ASK FOR BED TAX INCREASE
By LEAH STRATMANN
It was the decision of the South Walton Tourist Development Council (TDC) to ask for the support of the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) to approve a half-cent increase in the bed tax for the sole purpose of romancing a low-cost air carrier to the new airport in Panama City. An increase in tax from 4 percent to 5 percent was recently passed in Bay County for the same purpose and for a period of five years.
Billy Buzzett, vice-president of public affairs for the St. Joe Company, has been in negotiation with the airline the two tourist councils hope to attract to the Emerald Coast and was on hand to voice his support for the tax increase for the purpose of helping to market the area in tandem with the airline.
For much of the meeting, the airline name was not mentioned, until board member Mike Stange said, “We are talking about Southwest Airlines here, why not just say so?”
Buzzett acknowledged the truth of Stange’s comment and said negotiations seemed to be moving along nicely, but to date there has been no commitment on the part of the airline and said targeting a low-cost carrier will help to build Walton County tourism.
It was noted Bay County will begin collecting the fifth cent of tax in 60 days and the sooner the request of the TDC is brought before the BCC, the sooner the tax can be collected if the BCC approves.
TDC executive director Sonny Mares said the additional funds would ensure the already dedicated advertising funds will not be diluted. “These new funds can be used to good effect in targeting an airline. For instance, to penetrate one market like Chicago would cost around $2 million, which would take much of the current allocation. We will be working with neighboring TDCs in the marketing effort to attract an airline,” Mares said.
The Walton County Chamber of Commerce endorses asking for a fifth cent of tax to pursue the marketing effort, but board members said the fifth cent is the very last cent the TDC can assess and suggested caution be used since the marketing push is going to be a cooperative effort.
Board member Don McQuade said, “I don’t think the issues are clearly defined here. No one knows how much money will really be needed. The potential is tremendous. This airport probably will be the economic engine driving development in this area for the next 20 years. A one-penny increase equals$ 2.5 million. We have a resolution that says we are prepared to commit up to $l million. There is no clear definitive use for the remaining $1.5 million. In a difficult economic time, our customers are going to be asked to pay this tax increase. We need a clearer plan before going to the BCC.”
McQuade also noted a half-cent of tax once generated $2.8 million, but general decreases in tourism have lowered the ratio.
Mares said the TDC’s ad agency would be in talks with the airline to determine the financial needs to bring passengers into the plane and into this community. “We want the airport carriers to know how serious we are about getting new plane service to the area bringing tourists,” he stated.
“We better make sure this fifth cent is spent properly, because this is our last penny. I think we should pass a half cent increase and give 100 percent to the airline,” noted Stange. “We think Southwest wants to come here and we want them here. If they don’t come, don’t pass the tax. I think right now we need to get behind this 100 percent, but a half cent should be enough.”
Board member Tim Morris said the issue was coming to a head anyway and passing an increase could help to add some additional services to the area such as ball fields and so forth. “Additional services will create jobs and the local tax watch group has said they will not oppose this increase,” he said. Use of additional funds for the development of cultural arts was also discussed.
McQuade pointed out the TDC should not be in the business of building sports venues and in reality even though sports fields might bring in visitors, in most instances those groups were not prepared to pay the going rates for accommodations.
At this point, board member Jennifer Steele Saunders said just the opposite was true with visitors seeking cultural events. “Those visitors have more money and are willing to spend it,” she commented.
Another board member, Ken Gifford, asked why the fourth penny of tax, which is earmarked for new product development, was not being spent on cultural development. “Let’s get some dollars out of that fourth cent. I don’t see any reason not to find the money from this resource,” he said.
Mares said part of the funds generated by the fourth penny could be used to fund international marketing. “When the airport opens, it is expected to bring in international charters. We know Fort Walton Beach, Bay County and Walton County need to be in that market starting this November.
“Let’s make sure we are in a position with dollars in the bank to negotiate. I’m hoping to start putting things together that start to add up and resonate to them there is a deal here. This is a tough market for them too,” he said.
Gifford made this motion to increase the tax by one half of one cent with up to one million devoted to the airline and without a sunset provision when the tax would expire, and for the direct purpose of a attracting a low cost airline carrier with national and international marketing to achieve that goal. The motion carried by a vote of five to three.
A second motion by board member McQuade directed the TDC staff to re-examine the budget to allocate funds for a feasibility study for a cultural arts center and/or sports venues. All passed the motion.
Mares will try and put the tax increase issue on the March 24 agenda of the BCC.
In other news, the treasurer reported bed taxes were up 5.76 percent for January 2009, but numbers were down 9 percent for the preceding three-month period.
Construction is proceeding on the Inlet Beach bathrooms and the expectation is the bathrooms will be complete for the bulk of the tourist season.
Brad Pickel reported the signing of the Omnibus Bill by the president should mean the $565,000 is on the way to the area for the completion of the beach nourishment feasibility study. He also noted he, Mares and Commissioner Scott Brannon will be meeting with the area’s congressional delegation at the end of the month to discuss beach issues and that this is the seventh year in a row the area has gotten money from the federal government for beach restoration.
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03-23-2009, 08:56 AM #45
We chose to stay in Okaloosa county this year because walton county had not adjusted their rental rates to go with the economy. We found that Destin was thriving and you would not have known there was a recession going on. Restaurants closed with people waiting in line to eat, stores and buying shoppers galore and the condos were packed. You seemed to get a little more for your money. We got an extremely nice place on the water 2/2 for $1400 for the week vs. $1400 for 4 days in Seagrove. Came to seagrove for the day. It was strange. The beaches were empty as if it was the dead of winter. People petter start screaming about the taxation on the tourist, or they will find somewhere else to go that does not tax them to death. Believe me I know. I grew up in Seagrove.
On another note, it appears that the first part of your post could be an interesting trend to watch. Will others choose locations due to the rental rates and what they are looking for this year thus moving out of the sowal area where on average daily rates are higher (primarily due to the number of houses versus hotels or condos)? In turn, will that lead to more price reductions or less bookings? After the hurricanes in 04-05, some properties reduced rates and offered special and some didn't. Overall, the revenue generated was higher in each subsequent year even with the hurricanes. I am curious if the economy will have a deeper impact this year.
Last edited by BeachSiO2; 03-23-2009 at 10:22 AM. Reason: clarification- thanks SN!
03-23-2009, 09:16 AM #47
Tax the Roadside Peddlers
If the County wants to watch the budget and generate revenue $$$, why are we not doing anything about the growing number of roadside vendors, popping up all over (West 98, East 98, North 331). These people just come over to Walton County, drive off the side of the road and set up shop.
They pay no taxes, no fees, and the sell junk (knock off sunglasses and handbags). Yesterday, I saw three females with a damn tent set up like a shopping bazar off of 331 North, past Freeport. Not only is it an eye-sore (Great first impression for someone coming to the area for the first time), but the County is loosing revenue.
If nothing more it is the principle that hard working, tax paying County Citizens and Business Owners are paying taxes, fees, etc., but these folks can just set up shop anywhere and take advantage of them. The County sits by and does nothing.
Where the hell is code enforcement? Maybe they need to work weekends and start some enforcement. I could recover my 401k by just issuing citations to the beach folk with bottles on the beach this past weekend, its really laughable (I know the SO enforces this as well). I'd be interested in their operational budget (code) and how it looks next to other Counties. As well as sometype of report card showing daily activity, "what have you done for us lately?".
03-23-2009, 09:47 AM #48
As it stands now, managers of Walton properties and Okaloosa properties collect a total of 11% from their guests. For Walton properties, they send 4% to us and 7% to FDOR. For Okaloosa properties, they send 5% to Okaloosa and 6% to FDOR.
After the increase, Bay will be at 12%, we will be at 11.5%, and Okaloosa will be at 11%. This is assuming that the state sales tax does not get raised.Go Seminoles...fight team fight...SCALP'EM!!
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