Through February, ‘bed tax’ revenue continued to boom

County collections beat February 2019 total by almost $464,000

Thunder by the Bay, which is held at the Sarasota County Fairgrounds, is one February event that draws many out-of-town visitors. Image courtesy Suncoast Charities for Children

Given the effects the novel coronavirus has had on the hospitality industry since the latter half of March, the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office provides what may be the last burst of good news about the county’s Tourist Development Tax — or “bed tax” — revenue for some time.

In February, the county took in $463,927.21 more in Tourist Development Tax (TDT) revenue than it did in February 2019, the Tax Collector’s Office has reported. The total for February this year was $3,498,993.49, the office notes.

Through February, the amount of TDT revenue collected since the fiscal year began on Oct. 1, 2019 was $11,164,978.29. That put the year-over-year increase at $1,465,617.16, the latest report shows.

Additionally, refinements of the figures for the previous four months of the current fiscal year produced higher totals for October and December 2019, as well as for January.

For example, the January number previously reported was up by $440,397.44, compared to the revenue collected in January 2019. The latest report increases that uptick to $464,150.07.

Additionally, the previous total for December 2019 was up $189,582.53, compared to the figure for December 2018. The new report puts that month-over-month climb at $196,040.52.

This is the Tourist Development Tax comparison report through February. Image courtesy Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff have explained that audits and other enforcement actions lead to revisions of figures from month to month.

As for revenue collected from Airbnb hosts: The total from Oct. 1, 2019 through February was $914,157.35. That compares to $609,979.38 in Airbnb collections from Oct. 1, 2018 through February 2019.

Altogether, rentals of accommodations through all online platforms with which the county has collection agreements accounted for $408,516.58 in February TDT revenue, the Tax Collector’s Office report says.

As for location data: Through February, entities in the city of Sarasota accounted for 29.88% of all the revenue collected through February, the Tax Collector’s Office reports. Siesta Key was in second place, with 25.98%.

This is the Tourist Development Tax location report through February. Image courtesy Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

Over the past decade, the TDT revenue has continued to set new records, with the total in the 2019 fiscal year ending up at $23,354,198.19. However, Virginia Haley, president of the county’s tourism office, Visit Sarasota County, told the County Commission on April 8 that she anticipated little TDT revenue for the remainder of this fiscal year. For FY 2021, she added, she and her staff are working on budgeting with an expectation of about $15 million in total collections.

In Haley’s February report to local government leaders about research undertaken for her office, she noted that the number of visitors for that month was up 8.3%, to 145,600, compared to the figure for February 2019.

“Visitor direct expenditures were up 8.4% to $202,574,000,” she added, while lodging occupancy rose 3.9%, to 91.7%.

The average lodging room rate increased 6.6%, to $231.44, Haley reported, and the number of room nights sold rose by 11.7%, to 369,640.

The TDT revenue derives from a 5% tax on all accommodations rented for six months or less time. The funds are used to pay for a variety of county services, including beach maintenance and renourishment, as well as promotion of the county to visitors.