‘Bed tax’ revenue back in positive territory in August

With two months of data yet to be calculated for Fiscal Year 2020, county collections down about $3.6 million, compared to FY 2019 total

People enjoy strolling at the water’s edge on Lido Key Beach near sunset on Oct. 13. Image courtesy Visit Sarasota County, via Facebook

Building on good news the Sarasota County Commission received last week about other major revenue sources proving to be in better shape than anticipated, the latest county Tourist Development Tax revenue reports show a month-over-month increase of $133,784.97 for August.

After the first cases of the novel coronavirus were reported in the county in March — and the pandemic’s effects began to be felt nationwide — visits to the community dropped significantly, county hospitality industry representatives have pointed out. The August Tourist Development Tax (TDT) report is the first one with an uptick, compared to the same month in the previous fiscal year, that the county has seen since February.

This is a slide shown to the County Commission in late May, predicting the effects of the pandemic on major revenue sources through the rest of the 2020 fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30. Image courtesy Sarasota County

On May 21, during a County Commission budget workshop, staff of the Office of Financial Management predicted that the novel coronavirus pandemic would lead to a 45% drop in TDT collections in August, compared to the amount of money the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office took in for that month in 2019. The latest Tax Collector’s Office data shows that, instead, the August figure is about 12% higher than the amount of TDT revenue counted in August 2019.

Additionally, the data released by Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff early this month point out that the “bed tax” revenue was down only $2,728,866.07 through the end of August, compared to the total for the 2019 fiscal year.

Each fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

Through August, the TDT total was $19,766,113.18, according to the latest report from the Tax Collector’s Office.

This is the August Tourist Development Tax report. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

The final tally for FY 2019 was $23,378,098.01, another in a decade-long string of records the county accumulated with its TDT revenue. The funds are derived from a 5% tax on accommodations rented in the county for six months or less time.

Among other facets of the new data, the initial month-over-month drop reported for TDT revenue for July has been mostly wiped out. Instead of the figure declining $42,451.31 for this July compared to the collections for July 2019, the revised figure in the new report shows a month-over-month decline of only $314.12.

Ford-Coates and her staff often point out that audits and other enforcement actions can lead to changes in the numbers from one report to the next.

For another example in the August data, the month-over-month drop for June has improved, as well. The previous report showed the total TDT revenue collected in June of this year was $201,738.94 lower than the amount for June 2019. However, the new report puts the month-over-month drop at $198,175.02.

Ford-Coates’ staff also noted in the latest report that Airbnb collections through August totaled $1,565,733.66. The July report put the figure at $1,368,042.01.

Altogether, online accommodations platforms — including HomeAway and TripAdvisor — accounted for 14.26% of the total TDT revenue through August, the new report says. Through July, the figure was 13.7%.

As for location reporting: Entities that collect the TDT revenue on Siesta Key and those that collect it in the City of Sarasota typically “battle” it out for first place each fiscal year. The city had held the lead through the early months of the FY 2020 fiscal year.

However, Siesta was ahead once again in July, and it has maintained that position through August, the new report shows. Siesta entities had collected 28.18% of the TDT revenue for the 2020 fiscal year through August, while the figure for the City of Sarasota was 27.56%.

This is the August Tourist Development Tax report by location. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

Virginia Haley, president of the county’s tourism office, Visit Sarasota County, also reported better news for August, based on research she and her staff commission.

In an email to county and city leaders, Haley noted that the total number of visitors to the county in August was 67,200, a drop of 1.8% from the August 2019 total.

Lodging occupancy for August was 48.3%, Haley continued, which marked a 7.3% decline, compared to the figure for August 2019.

The average daily lodging rate this August, she wrote, was $135.34, an increase of 4.1% from the average for August 2019.

Finally, Haley pointed out that the number of room nights sold was 54,600 this August, a drop of 3.9% from the figure for August 2019.

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