Latest data show collections still on track for another record
Tourism in Sarasota County took a steep slide in August 2018 — a result of the red tide bloom’s fish kills and respiratory irritation. Therefore, it might come as no surprise that the county’s collections of Tourist Development Tax — or “bed” tax — revenue for August this year is $220,452.73 higher than the figure for August 2018.
In August 2017, the total county Tourist Development Tax (TDT) revenue was $1,101,004.29, according to data from the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office. The same month a year later, that total was $884,329.78. This year, the collections added up to $1,104,782.51 through the end of August — a jump of almost 25% from a year ago, according to numbers provided to the Tax Collector’s Office from the businesses and other entities that collect the 5% tax on accommodations rented for six or fewer months.
The latest report from the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office shows TDT revenue up by $410,032.71 so far for this fiscal year, compared to the final amount for the 2018 fiscal year. Each fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, so only one month’s collections are left to determine whether the total this year can beat the record mark of $22,773,343.16 set in the 2018 fiscal year.
Until the national publicity about red tide bloom prompted massive room reservation cancellations late last summer, Sarasota County staff anticipated another record-breaking mark by the time all the TDT money was counted at the end of September. After the county reaches the point where its collections add up to $30 million a year, the county can raise the tax to 6%, Carolyn Brown, then director of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department, told the county commissioners.
With red tide woes lingering into the fall of 2018, TDT revenue was down year-over-year for October and November. It bounced back into positive territory in December 2018 before dropping once more in January. It climbed again in February, March, April and May before taking further year-over-year dips in June and July.
Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff have pointed out numerous times that audits and other enforcement measures will lead to refinements of the figures for each month as the year goes on. However, the data through August show only slight changes from the previous report, issued after office received the July TDT figures.
For example, the total for July in the new report shows that TDT collections were down $77,297.39 year-over-year. The previous report put the drop at $77,900.36.
Conversely, the new data show that the year-over-year increase for February totaled $145,028.29. That number is slightly smaller than the $145,051.03 included in the previous report.
Visit Sarasota County provided the following information to county leaders in regard to August tourism, based on the research it commissions as the county’s tourism office:
• The number of visitors staying in paid lodging increased by 4.3%, to 65,400, and their direct spending grew by 5.9% to $37 million, compared to the data for August 2018.
• Lodging occupancy in August grew by 2.4%, to 52.1%, and the average room rate rose by 1.4% to $130.01.
• The number of room nights sold grew by 3%, to 160,900.
On one other positive note: Collections from Airbnb hosts for the fiscal year through August totaled $1,513,667.97. Through July, the Airbnb total was $1,373,457.12.
As for collections divvied up by location: Although Siesta Key accommodations surpassed those in the city of Sarasota through July, the city’s entities moved ahead once more as of the end of August. The city accounted for 30.43% of all the TDT revenue, compared to 30.14% for Siesta Key.
Typically, Siesta Key moves ahead of the city by the end of each fiscal year.