‘Bed tax’ revenue continues building on its new record, as shown in August data

With one month of collections yet to be tallied, Fiscal Year 2021 total near $29.5 million

In the latter part of August, pickleball opportunities in Sarasota County get a boost from the Visit Sarasota County Facebook page. Image courtesy Visit Sarasota County via Facebook

Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Tax — or, “bed tax” — revenue continued to climb in August, building on the record the funds set through July, the latest data from Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff show.

Through August, the collections exceeded the total for the 2020 fiscal year by $9,538,915.64. Altogether, the county had received $29,444,416.62 through August, Ford-Coates and her staff reported.

The 5% “bed tax” is charged on rentals of accommodations for six months or less time. The revenue is allocated to a wide array of purposes — from beach maintenance to upkeep at the county’s two Major League Baseball Spring Training facilities to the arts and cultural program grants the County Commission awards each year to local organizations.

During the 2019 fiscal year, as The Sarasota News Leader has noted, the TDT revenue set yet another record after years of records. The total collections in FY 2019 added up to $23,380,566.92, as indicated in the latest report from Ford-Coates. However, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in the 2020 fiscal year, the total that year was $21,071,458.01.

With one month’s collections left to be recorded for the 2021 fiscal year — which ended on Sept. 30 — the TDT revenue already is up nearly 26%, compared to the total for the 2019 fiscal year.

In August, the revenue was $1,778,683.27, the new report says. That was higher by $484,033.94 than the August 2020 total of $1,294,649.33.

The collections reported by hosts working through online rental platforms also continue to set a new record, the latest report makes clear.

This is the chart comparing Tourist Development Tax revenue data through August. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

The funds that Airbnb has turned over to Ford-Coates’ staff through August totaled $3,658,718.99. Through August 2020, the Tax Collector’s Office report showed the total was $1,565,733.66. Thus, the figure through August of this year is approximately 2 1/3 higher than that August 2020 total.

Combining the Airbnb collections with the funds from other entities with which the county has contracts — TripAdvisor and Vrbo.com and their subsidiaries — the online platforms accounted for 20.49% of the TDT revenue total through August, a chart shows.

Traditionally, Siesta Key and the City of Sarasota have “battled it out” for bragging rights on pulling in the highest share of the bed tax money each year. The online platforms are in third place so far this year behind Siesta Key, with 27.09%; and the City of Sarasota, with 25.96%, Ford-Coates’ staff notes in the latest report.

Among other details of the new data, the July collections are up slightly from the original report. Instead of a month-over-month climb of $1,518,939.27, the difference from July 2020 to July 2021 is an increase of $1,546,828.89, the new report shows.

Ford-Coates and her staff have pointed out that audits and other enforcement actions can lead to changes in the figures from one month to the next.

The June total for this year also is up a bit more, as shown in the latest report. In the previous report, the month-over-month uptick was $1,583,834.51. The new data puts the increase at $1,584,928,12, when comparing the revenue collected in June 2020 to the revenue turned over to Ford-Coates’ staff this June.

This is the ‘location’ report for Tourist Development Tax collections through August. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

In her report on August data to community leaders, Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County, continued to reference figures for 2019 for comparison purposes. Haley has noted the anomalies that the pandemic created for the collections during the last fiscal year in explaining that the 2019 data is a better frame of reference.

In August this year, she wrote in an email, the county had 94,600 visitors, a 38.3% increase from the August figure for 2019.

Visitors’ direct spending this August was $67,831,600, she noted, which represented a 79.1% increase from the August 2019 total.

Lodging occupancy was 54.8% this August, Haley continued, which marked a 5.2% increase from the August 2019 figure.

The average room rate this August was $174.07, a 35.4% increase from the August 2019 figure.

Finally, Haley noted that the number of room nights sold this August was 195,400, a 21.4% increase from the August 2019 total.