‘Bed tax’ revenue hits a new record in 2019 fiscal year

With big rebounds in August and September, total exceeds $23 million

Siesta Public Beach is relatively quiet on a late September day. Photo courtesy Visit Sarasota County via Twitter

Thanks to big month-over-month increases in August and September, Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Tax — or “bed tax” — revenue set a new record for the 2019 fiscal year, climbing above the $23-million mark for the first time, the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office has reported.

The latest figures show the total Tourist Development Tax (TDT) collected from Oct. 1, 2018 through Sept. 30 was $23,331,462.77. That is $556,791.59 higher than the $22,774,671.18 total at the end of the 2018 fiscal year. The final figure for the collections in the 2017 fiscal year was $21,391,358.88, according to the latest TDT report from Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates’ office.

For September, revenue was up $118,277.32, compared to the amount reported in September 2018, when red tide was ravaging the county coastline.

Although September traditionally is considered the “low” month for tourism in the county — with schools having reopened and no major events typically occurring — owners and managers of accommodations and restaurants last year talked of devastating drops in their sales. The red tide bloom off the west coast of the state was killing tons of fish — which was producing a stench that, at times, wafted inland — and it was producing an aerosol that irritates respiratory systems.

Entities that collect the 5% tax on rentals of accommodations for 30 or fewer days reported a total of $869,025.84 in September of this year, an increase of almost 16% compared to the $750,748.52 taken in during September 2018, according to the Tax Collector’s Office data. The September total in 2017 was $1,082,309.87, the Tax Collector’s Office’s report shows.

This chart shows the Tourist Development Tax revenue totals for each month for the past three fiscal years. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

Additionally, a revised figure for the August collections this year — $1,122,080.93 — is an uptick of almost 27% from the amount reported in August 2018, which was $884,329.78. The total originally cited for August of this year was $1,104,782.51.

Ford-Coates and members of her staff have explained on numerous occasions that audits and other enforcement action can lead to refinements of the data from month to month.

For another example of those changes, the previous TDT report from the Tax Collector’s Office said the July total was down $77,297.39, compared to the figure for July 2018, before red tide drove away tourists. However, the latest report shows that month-over-month deficit was $66,494.08.

The new report also puts the total TDT amount from Airbnb rentals at $1,664,256.33. At the end of the 2017 fiscal year, the county had taken in $1,105,374.61 from Airbnb, Ford-Coates’ staff reported at that time.

In regard to the Visit Sarasota County data for September: President Virginia Haley reported to local government leaders that the number of visitors who stayed overnight in accommodations was 63,250, up 7%, compared to the total for September 2018. The lodging occupancy rate climbed 4.3%, to 43.3%, compared to the September 2018 number. The average daily room rate, she added, was $120.82, an uptick of 1.2% from the September 2018 figure.

Finally, Haley noted, the number of room nights sold was 156,750, 1.1% more than in September 2018.

As for the divvying up of the TDT revenue by location: Over the past several years, Siesta Key has “won” the figurative competition for the highest percentage. That was not the case this year, Ford-Coates’ staff has reported. This time, entities in the city of Sarasota took in the biggest share of TDT revenue: 30.62%.

Siesta was responsible for 29.72% of the total, the report says.

This is the chart showing TDT revenue collections by location through the 2019 fiscal year. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

More hotels have opened in the city of Sarasota over the past couple of years, Haley of Visit Sarasota County — the county’s tourism office — has reminded local government leaders.

Although anecdotal reports from Siesta indicate that the number of Airbnb rentals have increased on the barrier island during the recent past, no new hotels have been constructed on Siesta in many years.