Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pinellas Wants to Raise Bed Taxes...Not for Stadiums

Expect some debate on this one...

WTVT's Steve Nichols reports the Pinellas County Tourist Development Council is asking county commissioners to raise the "bed tax" (aka "tourist tax") from 5 percent to 6 percent.  It would be worth an additional $7M/yr:
"If you go to Clearwater Beach, there's six cranes in the air right now," TDC member and hotelier Russ Kimball said. "We're going to need money to market and promote that area, and I think downtown St. Pete and St. Pete Beach are right behind us."

Tourism director David Downing emphasized a growing audience for Pinellas tourism advertising. The TDC uses some of its marketing dollars to underwrite expanded air service to Tampa International Airport from Latin America and Europe, and recently targeted China and the West Coast as potential growth markets. 
Pinellas qualified for the extra bed tax last year after collecting more than $30 million in 2013 from its 5 percent bed tax. However in 2014, the TDC was reluctant to make the recommendation. 
Nichols reports state law restricts how the sixth cent can be spent, limiting it to marketing, beach renourishment, and non-professional sports facilities.  But much of the $7M/yr - which could be bonded into a new $90 million chunk of cash - could ultimately go toward a new pro sports facility with the right accounting measures. 

Since this as seen as "making the tourists pay," there's a good chance Pinellas County Commissioners will approve the measure in August.  I reported last year how many of the current commissioners have supported using the sixth cent to pay for new stadiums, possibly even for the Rowdies.  But how would the county's tourism board feel about that?


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