‘Bed tax’ revenue continues to climb

Revised data and May figures keep Tourist Development Tax revenue on track for new record this fiscal year

The Hub Baja Grill in Siesta Village is busy at lunchtime in late May. Rachel Hackney photo

May marked the fourth consecutive month that Sarasota County Tourist Development Tax (TDT) — or “bed tax” — revenue has climbed year-over-year, after a slow start last fall linked to the red tide bloom.

The latest data from the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office show the collections through May are higher by $248,799.68 for this period of the 2019 fiscal year, compared to the same stretch of the 2018 fiscal year.

Overall, the revenue through May stood at $17,711,083.45. That keeps the county on track to notch another record for TDT collections for the fiscal year. The county has set records for the revenue over the past several years.

The actual increase from May 2018 to May of this year was $51,146.72, the latest Tax Collector’s Office data show. However, that figure is less than half the year-over-year increase reported through May 31, 2018. Then, collections were up $102,717.85, compared to the amount reported for May 2017.

Virginia Haley, president of the county’s tourism agency, Visit Sarasota County, reported last month that her staff’s checks of outlooks for county accommodations showed softer projections for the period post-high tourist season this year. Haley indicated that people still were wary of a repeat of last summer’s red tide devastation, with tons of dead fish and a putrid odor driving people away from the beaches.

Thus far, this spring and summer, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) weekly reports on red tide conditions have shown nothing significant. In its latest update — dated July 12 — FWC noted that over the past week in Southwest Florida, the red tide algae, Karenia brevis, “was observed at background concentrations in Sarasota and Lee counties.”

Along with the positive news for May, the latest TDT report from Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates’ office also reflects increases in totals for four other months, as a result of audits and other action. Ford-Coates has explained on numerous occasions to members of the county’s Tourist Development Council that figures can change from month-to-month, based on new information her staff uncovers or receives.

This chart shows the latest Tourist Development Tax figures, compared to those for the previous two fiscal years. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office

For March of this year, for example, the latest report says TDT revenue was up $155,150.21, compared to the figure for March 2018.

The previous update from Ford-Coates’ staff put that year-over-year uptick at $135,896.65.

And for April, the new data show the year-over-year climb at $109,486.04, compared to $102,389.77 in the previous report.

Additionally, the latest report says Airbnb collections for the fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, 2018, total $1,085,723.24 through May. The figure through April was $940,533.57.

In regard to the May update from Visit Sarasota County, the following information was provided to the county, Media Relations Officer Drew Winchester told The Sarasota News Leader:

  • The number of visitors in May grew by 2.5% year-over-year, to 116,000, and their direct spending grew by 2.6%, to $112,604,500.
  • Hotel occupancy remained flat at 64.5%, while the average hotel room rate declined by 3.7% to $165.74.
  • The number of hotel rooms sold grew by 3.7% year-over-year for May, to 239,140.

As for Ford-Coates’ staff’s report on TDT collections by location, Siesta Key still remains behind the city of Sarasota through May. The latest report says Siesta entities that collect the tax have accounted for 29.44% of the total revenue so far this fiscal year, while the figure for the city of Sarasota stands at 30.25%. Over the past several fiscal years, Siesta Key has outpaced the city in the final months.

This chart compares TDT revenue collections by location in the county. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office

The tax is charged on accommodations rented for six months or less time.

TDT revenue is allocated for a variety of purposes — beach maintenance and renourishment, debt service on the Atlanta Braves’ new Spring Training stadium in North Port and marketing of Sarasota County to tourists, among others.

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