‘Bed tax’ revenue declines year-over-year for April, Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office reports

Overall total so far still indicates another record could be set

Traffic is bumper-to-bumper in Siesta Village on April 5. Rachel Hackney photo

For the first time since the current fiscal year began on Oct. 1, 2017, Tourist Development Tax (TDT) revenue has dipped for one month, compared to the same month last year, the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office has reported.

The April figure was $64,432.37 lower than the April 2017 total, Tax Collector Office records show.

The TDT revenue comes from the 5% tax charged on accommodations in the county, including those provided by Airbnb hosts.

In April 2016, the total of TDT revenue was $1,827,293.50; in April 2017, the amount was $2,110,521.93. This year, it was $2,046,089.56.

Easter — which used to be considered the end of the traditional, high tourist season — came earlier this year. It was April 1; in 2017, Easter fell on April 16.

Nonetheless, the total for TDT revenue collected through April of the current fiscal year is higher than the figure for the same period of the 2017 fiscal year. As of the end of April, the number was $1,516,124.47, the latest report shows. Through March, the revenue was up $1,483,768.28, year-over-year.

The latest data compares Tourist Development Tax revenue by month and fiscal year. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office

In both the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years, the county set records for TDT revenue. County commissioners have talked recently of their anticipation that another record will be set this year. Altogether, the total for this fiscal year through April is $15,805,920.29. Through April 2017, the county had collected $14,241,085.67, so the county does remain on track for a new record.

Figures can change from month to month, Ford-Coates and her staff have pointed out, as audits and other updates of reports from the entities that collect the money produce revised numbers.

Thus far this fiscal year, the latest report shows the figure for every month has increased as a result of such revisions, through the end of March. For example, the TDT collections for March totaled $401,622.98 in the previous Tax Collector’s Office report, released on April 30. Yet, the March figure provided as part of the latest report — as of May 31 — is $493,086.52.

One of the smallest increases in the new report was for October 2017. The latest figure for that month is $138,825.30, compared to $138,777.72 in the March 31 Tax Collector’s Office report.

In regard to the location reporting of the TDT revenue, Siesta Key remains in first place. Entities on the barrier island had collected 30.2% of the total through April. The city of Sarasota was in second place, with 29.07%.

Because of the filing deadlines the Tax Collector’s Office imposes for the entities that collect the TDT revenue, the May figures are not anticipated to be released until early July. However, Visit Sarasota County President Virginia Haley has reported a mix of data for that month, based on the research for which her office contracts.

In a June 22 email to community leaders, she wrote, “First the good news for the month of May. The number of visitors [was] up by 2.7% to 117,100 over last May, due to larger party size which reflects a higher number of families visiting Sarasota County. Their direct expenditures in Sarasota County grew by 3% in May to $113,645,500.”

A chart compares Tourist Development Tax collections by the location where they were reported. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office

However, she continued, “The tropical wave that moved through our area over the Memorial Day weekend was very bad [in terms of] timing for tourism. With so much of our summer business coming from Florida, many visitors just didn’t come, left early or cancelled their vacations in Sarasota. That factor combined with the increased lodging inventory,” she noted, resulted in an occupancy drop of 6.9% for accommodations, to 64.7%. Room rates declined as well, with the average declining 1.3% to $172, she wrote.

On a more positive note, Airbnb reported on June 6 that it delivered more than $978,000 to Sarasota County in TDT revenue through the first full year of its collaboration with the county.

“In April 2017, the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office and Airbnb announced a tax agreement authorizing the home sharing and vacation rental platform to automatically collect the 5% Sarasota County bed tax on behalf of its host community and remit the revenue directly to the county,” an Airbnb news release explains. “That agreement was approved by the Sarasota County Commission and took effect on May 1, 2017, infusing a new revenue stream for the county to fully capitalize on more people visiting Sarasota and staying longer through home sharing.”

In 2017, Airbnb added, more than 67,000 visitors to Sarasota County booked accommodations with Airbnb hosts.

So far this fiscal year, Airbnb hosts have accounted for $668,591.67, the Tax Collector’s March 31 report says.