I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Expanded Use of Tourist Development Tax to be Contemplated this Session....

Right now Escambia County levies 4 of an available 6 cents on every dollar spent by tourists on room nights in Escambia County.

I've recently proposed raising this to levy the 5th cent, with a simultaneous push to modify the law to allow 4/10s of the 5 cent levy (or about $1Million yearly) to come back to the County and the ECSO to help offset recurring public safety expenditures at tourist areas of the county---Just as Okaloosa, Walton, and Bay Counties currently do.

I'm working this issue locally, discussing it with hoteliers and twice now with my counterparts on the BCC.  My question is simple:  Should we not extract a small portion of this fee back to offset the tourism related expenditures which Escambia County property owners are currently subsidizing?  Residents should contemplate the answer to this question carefully.  Not only does tourist season increase demand on our infrastructure and in some instances limits our ability to access our own beaches on busy summer days--but to add injury to insult there are some that believe this is an acceptable situation and to even ASK about pulling back some TDT monies to help offset public safety costs associated with tourism is taboo.  I disagree--as do others. So we're supposed to pay all costs of public safety with revenue derived from residents, we're supposed to fund a new stadium with non-TDT funds, and we're supposed to use LOST money to pay $25-30 Million for round a bouts?  Really?

I think there will have to be some negotiating on all these issues, the Blue Penny, roundabouts, sports arenas, and spending TDT monies.  We need to work together and utilize all funding sources to the maximum allowable methods---AS OKALOOSA, WALTON, and BAY have already figured out...

But now, there is a new, interesting bill that has been filed that contemplates expanding the uses of the tourist development taxes for certain tourist utilized road and infrastructure projects.

This session will be interesting for sure...From the Miami Sun Sentinel:

"Tourist tax dollars could pay for roads, sewers and other projects under a bill being debated in the Florida Legislature. Currently, taxes on hotel rooms must go to tourism marketing or projects directly related to attracting tourists, such as beach renourishment or facilities such as aquariums and convention centers. Under the proposal, the tax could be used projects that would help tourism-related business. 'You can use the tax money to build a convention center, but you can’t use it to build a road to the convention center,' said state Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, who sponsored the House version. 'You can improve a beach, but you can’t build a bike path to the beach.' Supporters say it is needed because some counties take in more money than they have tourism projects to spend on."


Anonymous said...

raise that Tax..pass the new legislation!

Bill Ray said...

The roundabout plans (all three of them) are flawed and doomed for failure because they are unfamiliar and unworkable in the space provided. Additionally, they will do NOTHING to provide improved access for county residents to Pensacola Beach (the stated desire by many including BOC members). They only was to improve access to the beach is to provide more than one gateway (i.e. another bridge) and to work with Santa Rosa county to improve the bottleneck that exists between the 3 mile bridge and the current access to the beach.

Build another bridge down by Portofino, and leave the charm and the beauty of the current core area of Pensacola Beach alone! There are many Destins, Orange Beaches, Myrtle Beaches, and the like - but only one Pensacola Beach. Please protect it and don't ruin it with "improvements" like roundabouts.

frederic jackson said...

I agree with Mr. Ray. The commercial lease holders on the Beach are busily lobbying for permission to expand "tourist activities" on the beach, which seems to mean adding more stories to existing beach bars and restaurants to entice even more tourists to the shore. Soon we will have a beautiful new multi-lane bay bridge funneling more traffic into Gulf Breeze where beach-goers will then be shunted to the one-lane beach exit onto the old two lane Sikes bridge. With or without tool booths the mile-long traffic jam will then extend from Gulf Breeze to Quietwater, where the ludicrous traffic circles will await. The pictures shown recently seem to indicate that the first circle will consume most of Alvin's, Flounder's, and the main beach parking lots. The second circle into the lovely elevated concrete parking garage will then take out the businesses adjacent to the Casino Beach parking lot entrance . Now you want the Beach tax payers to pay for expanded services to control the chaos. The thing everyone seems afraid to say is that when the beach is full, it is full! Cramming more cars onto the island seems a perfect way to kill this Golden Goose.
Excuse my cynicism but I can't really think of a place where more access to a limited area benefitted anyone but those with something to sell. Certainly not the naïve tourists or to the residents of PBeach.