Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Pinellas Again Discusses Increasing Bed Tax for Stadium(s)

The Pinellas Tourist Development Council - in charge of the county's lucrative bed tax - spent the day debating whether there should be a cap on capital projects funded by tourists, according to the Times' Tony Marrero.

Those in favor of building a new Rays stadium and/or new spring training facilities oppose a cap;  but many hoteliers favor a cap to ensure the county's biggest tourist-draw, the beaches, money gets spread across the county's biggest tourism draw:
The council, of which (St. Pete Mayor Rick) Kriseman is a member, voted 7-4 to recommend to the Pinellas County Commission that spending on capital projects such sports stadiums account for no more than 40 percent of the revenue raised by the county's tourism tax. Kriseman wants a 50 percent cap to make more money available for projects such as renovating Al Lang Field and the recently-announced plan to build an 1,800-seat baseball stadium at Walter Fuller Field, both in St. Petersburg.
Wednesday's joint meeting with the County Commission was called after Kriseman and other community leaders raised concerns about a previous cap proposal. Comments from commissioners indicated there is still hope that Kriseman and allies such as Dunedin Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski, who announced Wednesday that her city will ask for as much as $50 million in bed tax money for a new stadium and training facility for the Toronto Blue Jays, can convince four of seven commissioners to approve the higher cap.
But wait, there may be a way to keep everyone happy!  Except people visiting Pinellas hotels, of course:
The overall pot might grow even larger. At (Commissioner John) Morroni's suggestion, the tourist council agreed to consider approving a sixth center (sic) of bed tax that Pinellas is allowed by law to levy as a high-impact county that brings in at least $30 million in annual bed tax revenue.

Kriseman and others have said revenue from the sixth cent could be targeted for a new Rays stadium. After the meeting, Kriseman said the county should not raise the tax unless there's a specific need for it.

"Unless somebody tells me something that convinces me otherwise, I think we ought to put that sixth cent in our pocket," he said.

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