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."