‘Bed tax’ revenue up nearly 9% in March, compared to total for same month in 2023

With half of fiscal year gone, total collections add up to 57% of funds for same period of 2023 fiscal year

Image courtesy Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

In March, for the first time this fiscal year, the Tourist Development Tax — or, “bed tax” — revenue was several hundred thousand dollars higher than shown for the corresponding month in the 2023 fiscal year, as Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff have reported.

The total bed tax revenue collected in March was $7,769,563.24, which was up $631,433.15 — nearly 9% — compared to the March 2023 figure of $7,138,130.09, the new reports show.

Still, because the Tourist Development Tax (TDT) revenue was down month-over-month for every month of this fiscal year except February and March, the total collected thus far is $28,415,075.26, which is down $1,258,263.11, compared to the figure for the same period of the 2023 fiscal year.

Through March 2023, the Tax Collector’s Office had received TDT revenue adding up to $29,311,062.02, as the reports showed then. The money turned over to the Tax Collector’s Office in the 2023 fiscal year set a new record: $50,058,821.64. That was higher by 24% than the tally at the end of the 2022 fiscal year, the reports note: $40,310,697.77.

With six months’ of collections left this fiscal year, the TDT total through March represents nearly 57% of the final tally for the 2023 fiscal year.

The 6% tax is charged on rentals of accommodations for six months or less time. A county ordinance dictates how the money is used — from beach maintenance to upkeep of the county’s two Major League Baseball Spring Training stadiums to providing the county’s $20-million commitment to the construction of Mote Marine’s Science Education Aquarium between Nathan Benderson Park and the Mall at University Town Center, near University Parkway.

Yet another detail in the latest reports is the fact that Airbnb hosts in the county had collected $3,853,919.44 through March. That marks an increase of close to 1.6%, compared to the 2023 fiscal year tally through March: $3,794,671.80.

Altogether, the latest reports show, the amount of TDT revenue collected by hosts who rent accommodations through online platforms represented 21.07% of the total through March of this fiscal year. That is slightly higher than the 20.67% figure in the reports for March 2023.

Image courtesy Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

Among other information in the new reports: TDT collections from hosts on Siesta Key made up 26.86% of the revenue through March of this fiscal year. That compares to the City of Sarasota’s figure of 24.58%.

Siesta and the city wage a figurative battle each year, waiting to see the final TDT report to find out which “won.” The city was the victor the past two fiscal years.

Through March 2023, the city was in the lead, with 26.73% of the collections, compared to Siesta’s 23.5%.

Yet other data in the latest reports make clear significant increases in revenue for earlier months. For example, the original report for the February collections showed that they were up $7,676.61, compared to the February 2023 figure. In the new reports, that uptick has jumped more than fourfold, to $33,013.67.

Ford-Coates and her staff have explained that changes in the figures from one month to the next generally are a factor of audits and other enforcement actions. Moreover, the individuals in the Tax Collector’s Office charged with handling the TDT revenue seek diligently to locate hosts of accommodations who have not been turning over the 6% share to the county. The staff search includes a focus on people renting homes through the online platforms, Chief Deputy Tax Collector Sherri Smith has indicated in her annual TDT reports to the county’s Tourist Advisory Council.

The Sarasota News Leader also found that the new total for January collections is more than $5,000 above the figure in the previous report. The latest data put the number at $5,595,752.83; the previous report said the total was $5,590,402.91.

Along with the monthly updates from the Tax Collector’s Office, Visit Sarasota County — the county’s tourism office — releases a report undertaken on its behalf by a Tallahassee firm, Downs & St. Germain Research.

That report showed that the number of visitors to the county rose 0.8% in March, to 159,400, compared to the March 2023 total of 158,100.

Moreover, the visitors’ direct expenditures this March were up 5.2%, to $232,641,200, compared to the March 2023 figure of $221,075,900. Yet, Downs & St. Germain noted, that was partially a result of an increase in the average daily room rate for accommodations. The average room rate was up 7.8%, to $337.72 this March, compared to $313.37 in March 2023.

The Downs & St. Germain report included the following data, as well:

  • Occupancy of accommodations was down 0.9% — from 84.7% in March 2023 to 83.9% this March.
  • The number of room nights sold climbed slightly this March — 1.6%. The total for March 2023 was 379,600; for this March, 385,800.

Downs & St. Germain staff also check with managers of accommodations each month to ask about projections for the next three months. In March, the report said, property managers were less optimistic, with 54% of them “reporting similar demand compared to last year and 38% reporting reduced demand.”

One bright spot, though, has been the trend of increased visits from people who live in colder regions, the report said. The number of travelers from Canada to Sarasota County was higher by 16.8% for this fiscal year through March, compared to the number for the same period of the 2023 fiscal year, the report pointed out.