‘Bed tax’ revenue continues its climb this fiscal year

Total for first three months up $490,081, compared to figure for same period of 2018

The Sound of Music, which ended its run on Dec. 28, 2019 at the Asolo Repertory Theatre, proved a huge draw for the public. Image courtesy Asolo Rep

For the third straight month this fiscal year, Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Tax — or “bed tax” — revenue climbed higher than the total for the same month in the 2019 fiscal year.

In its report for December 2019, the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office says the total Tourist Development Tax (TDT) revenue was $2,005,074.61, which was up $156,999.24 — about 8.5% — in comparison to the figure for December 2018.

From October 2019 through December 2019, the county’s TDT total is $490,081.50 higher than the amount collected in the same three months of the 2019 fiscal year.

Each fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

This is the latest TDT comparison report. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

Additionally, the Tax Collector’s Office noted in its latest report that the total amount of the TDT revenue included $481,488.75 turned in by Airbnb, based on its hosts’ rentals in the county. That figure marked a climb of approximately 64% from the amount reported in December 2018, which was $292,628.36.

However, in the first quarter of the 2019 fiscal year, county accommodations still were contending with negative national publicity about red tide, which had killed tons of fish — and several mammals, as well as sea turtles — on Sarasota County’s coastline.

The 5% “bed” tax is charged on rentals of accommodations for six months or less time. The revenue is allocated to a number of county initiatives, including beach maintenance, upkeep of Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, where the Baltimore Orioles are preparing for their 2020 Spring Training season; the debt service on county bonds that paid for the new Atlanta Braves Spring Training facilities at CoolToday Park, just outside North Port; arts and cultural program grants; and the marketing of the county to tourists.

The County Commission in January also agreed to allocate $20 million out of TDT revenue to help pay for Mote Marine Laboratory’s planned Science Education Aquarium at Nathan Benderson Park.

Additionally, the latest report from the Tax Collector’s Office shows that the revenue total for November 2019 had been revised upward. Instead of $1,334,639.28 in the previous report, the figure is $1,343,163.79 in the new one.

Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff have explained that audits and other enforcement measures can lead to refinements of the figures from month to month.

As for the reporting of the collections by location: In December 2019, entities in the city of Sarasota continued to hold the “lead,” accounting for 35.4% of the total revenue. Siesta Key was in second place, with 22.07%. Rentals of accommodations through online platforms — such as Airbnb and Vrbo.com — made up 16.11% of the revenue, the location report said.

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

Virginia Haley, president of the county’s tourism office — Visit Sarasota County — offered more statistics about visitors in December 2019.

In an email to local government leaders, she reported that the number of tourists staying in paid lodging grew by 13.7% to 97,400, compared to the data for December 2018, “and their spending grew by 13.1% to $86,800,700.”

Further, she wrote, “The number of [hotel] rooms sold grew by 9.4% to 174,700,” with hotel occupancy at 64.9%. The latter figure, she noted, was a 9.8% increase, compared to the percentage in December 2018.

Research did show a slight drop — 0.7% — in the average room rate, she added. The December 2019 figure was $178.74.

With a 41% increase in the number of hotel rooms in the county between the 2016 fiscal year and the start of this fiscal year, hotels have had to lower their rates to fill rooms, Haley has explained to local government leaders.

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