What is the Bay County Bed Tax

We talk a lot about Bed Tax around here, because largely it’s a fairly accurate snapshot of the vitality of our tourism industry.  Bed Tax, or officially known as the Bay County Tourist Development Tax, is a tax on revenue generated from tourism accommodations rentals.  In other words, if a property charges $1000 base rent rate, there is an additional 5% bed tax charged on top of that, or $50, which is collected and managed by the Bay County Clerk of the Court and Comptroller, Bill Kinsaul.

What the bed tax is used for.

To understand what the bed tax is used for, we need to break down what every percentage is apportioned to.

The first 3 points are specifically designated to be used “for advertising and promotion of Panama City Beach, Florida as a tourist destination, beach cleaning and maintenance and product improvement of the area.”  Then “1% of the monies collected are dedicated to the beach renourishment project and for the on-going maintenance of the renourishment. [And]1% of the monies collected are dedicated to supporting low cost air service and promoting the area nationally and internationally.”

Further clarification from Dan Rowe, CEO of the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitor’s Bureau: “The third cent goes to beach renourishment. The 5th is for cooperative marketing with low fare carriers flying into ECP. The CVB is funded from the other 3 cents, as is beach maintenance, landscaping, etc.”

The original base bed tax rate was 3%, but it was increased to 5% in February of 2009 in what was a dramatic series of public workshops and meetings.  The decision went through a litany of discussions in boards that ranged from local home owner’s associations (whether they would support it) to Tourist Development Council meetings, with the ultimate decision being on the shoulders of the Bay County Commission.

Read the 5th cent increase article here. 

Originally determined in the county commission meetings in which the bed tax increase was proposed, the 4th cent increase had no “sunset clause” – meaning it would never expire.  The 5th cent increase had a sunset clause that was to expire its collection in April of 2013, however that sunset clause was removed this morning in a regularly held County Commission meeting.

At this point, the bed tax rate will remain at 5% indefinitely.

July Tourism Devastated in Panama City Beach

In what was supposed to be the best July we’ve ever experienced in Panama City Beach, threat of oil-covered sand and fear of ruined vacations kept visitor’s away.  This summer was supposed to be the beginning of a new era in Panama City Beach tourism growth with high expectations from the performance of the new airport and the millions of dollars of extra marketing money that was being pumped into the awareness of our area.  Local officials, organizations and industry leaders had literally been working up to this summer for years in anticipation of record breaking numbers; and it was all crushed by what some would call a series of blatant mistakes that could have easily been avoided.

Continue reading “July Tourism Devastated in Panama City Beach”

Bed Tax – 4th cent passed, 5th cent tabled

I’ve been getting emails that are telling me that if we pass the bed tax increase then people will stop coming here because the rates will be too high and all the businesses will shut down and we’ll all go away, and I’ve been getting emails that say that if we don’t pass the bed tax increase then people won’t know about us and we’ll all just wither away and all the businesses will shut down – so, I don’t know what’s going to happen," said Jerry Girvin, Chairman of the Bay County Commission.

It’s just not the right time to be doing this, I don’t believe it is the right thing to do." – George Gainer, commissioner.

Girvin and Gainer were the two that opposed the bed tax increase this morning.  At the beginning, Girvin said he wasn’t sure how he was going to decide when it came time to vote.  Mike Thomas, sensing uncertainty in the air urged that they vote on the 4th cent and table the 5th so as to provide more time for other board members to learn more about the issues at hand.  The 4th cent only required a majority vote, whereas the 5th required a super majority or 4 of the 5 members.

When it came time to vote for the 4th cent, Dozier, Thomas and Nelson voted yes, while Girvin and Gainer voted no, passing the 4th cent.  They all agreed to table the 5th until next month’s meeting.

Commissioners, you did a very great thing today in passing the 4th cent.  We now have the money to broaden our marketing efforts and increase our feeder market potential.  We now will have the marketing dollars to draw new vistors to our area that previously had not known we were here.  That is important, very important.

However, there is still another very important decision to be made.  We need the 5th cent.  We have to improve our sporting and special events facilities.  We have good business that will leave us if we don’t improve.  There are thousands of athletes that are counting on the improvement of our area so that they can continue to come back here in the future.  There are hundreds of condo owners that rely on this business every year.  Pier Park and other shops and restaurants in Panama City Beach rely on this business to give then a shot in the arm during tournament season.

I don’t think you truly understand how big this business is or how important this particular issue is. I urge you and encourage you to do your homework before the next meeting so that you fully understand the issue at hand.  In the mean time, I’ll get with the TDC and Richard Sanders and try and get a clear picture and post it here on pcbdaily.

On another note, technology was in my favor today and I was doing updates via Twitter all morning during the meeting.  I say technology was in my favor, but actually, my phone did crash towards the end but came back up after only 20 minutes of suspense!  argh

Enjoy the tweets (note, I’m sorry if the formating seems rough and unprofessional below, but there are so many of them, I just don’t have the energy to dress it up, but I wanted you to see all the commentary):

Dozier supports it. The fourth will pass. Will the fifth….. Gervin?

5th cent tabled along with the development plan for 2009

Girven voted no on 4th. Three voted yes so it passed

Thomas for it, hopes it all passes

Thomas says that if we do nothing it will be the greatest mistake they’ve made.

Thomas asks to table the 5th cent until the feb meeting

Says the experts are telling us to do this- why don’t we listen

Mike thomas asked if there was a dr – he’s about to have a stroke

Dozier talking. Says people don’t care about a 2 cent tax

Girven not totally committed which way he’s going to come down.

Also said that if we keep the fee where it is, people won’t come down here and we’ll go broke

Said that if we raise the fee people will go elsewhere and we’ll go broke.

Chairman girven talking now. Has heard from a lot of people that were not happy

Nelson rebuts. We’ve got to get our name out there.

Gainer still opposed

Gainer talking. Keeps comparing to his car business. It just isn’t applicable. Give it up george!

Motion to pass the 4th. And … Discussion

Nelson says we need to listen to the tdc and that they know the issues

We need three of five for the 4th and four of five for the 5th

Says bed tax increase is from the tdc doing its job. That they have been making great progress

Says tdc is not perfect. There are collection issues that will be addressed

Commissioner nelson talking now

Closed public hearing

Says the businesses should pay for their own advertising

Ron shranger. Doesn’t oppose advertising but opposes the way we want to pauy for it

He is not for eliminating college break all together but taking ot out in phases

Mark canfora up. Infinity blu. Says this market is the number one area for growth

Phone crashed, back up now. Julie hilton, russ smith spoke

We spent the money on frank brown and it worked. We spend the money on more and it will work.

Owns a small business and said his business grew when he spent money on it. Supports the increase

Bill mcneil pres of bay co chamber. Supports the 2 cent increase.

Wishes we could move away from spring break quicker but glad we are moving away

Peter bruchae is up. Hates spring break and agrees that we have moved away from it.

Said if we had to go to 15 percent- anything to get our area more discovered.

Says we can’t go backwards. We’ve got the development, now we have to tell people about it.

Knows we exist. Many from back home would like it down here.

Ben kernun is talking. From northeast and says that very few people that he knows back home

We can only do it with more money

Leanne leonard from by the sea. Says we need to attract more visitors and. . .

Julie hilton is here, waiting to see her go up- she is not for the increase.

Said it would be a stimulus to our area.

Beth oltman beach chamber pres supports strongly the increase from a business owner position

14000 weddings in the panhandle- avg $25k per. We can frow that is people knew about us.

Says tdc is only promoting bringing spring breakers here. Not a very good argument- nor very educated

With increased marketing $$ we can brand our destination is a broader scope of markets

Joanne banks with diva productions up.

Joy wants lifeguards and no underage drinking and for this to be a family destination- totally agree

Joy carlisle- feels like the tdc is throwing money away

Opening up for public comment

Dan rowe back up- said this year is the first that we are actively promoting family spring break

No vote puts us in a position to fail, yes vote puts us in a position to succeed

Less than 2 percent have asked what the tax rate is. He has polled those calling his rental business.

Do we want to support growth or do we step aside and just see what happens.

Bill dozier left, bathroom?

He says that this is something that we should have done four years ago

If we don’t have the ability to gain more visitors then how can we fill all the new opportunity

Worried that we will have a bad rental year. We need more marketing dollars now.

Marty mcdaniel speaking now representing 2000 units in pcb

Mexico beach is taling now- they are hurting and need more money "work like hell and advertise"

They did it despite immense public scrutiny because there was a need.

Buddy is comparing the bed tax increase to the county’s building their new facilities.

Southern living full page ad is over $100,000. Holy cow.

Buddy wilkes speaking now.

Says needs 2 pennies. Has to drive people to pier park and the new 6000 rooms.

Mike bennett is talking now. He agrees with the increase but his dad doesn’t totally

Patronis says our neighbors have more money than we do. We are not competitive

Patronis is focusing attention on gainer

4th cent for marketing only.

Yonnie patronis is talking now. Urging the 5th cent for sports marketing.

Thomas… Said the auto industry (gainer) has gotten plenty

Mike thomas asked if there had been a bailout planned for the tourism industry

Has cut spring break funding eaxh year.

I highly doubt we’ll get the vote of george gainer. He very much disagrees with raising any tax

Just reported that they would like to see the entire funding for spring break to come from coop

Increase in marketing budget by more than double.

Increase is the same cost for someone staying a week as two value meals at zaxby’s

7 out of 10 housholds in the us are planning to travel in the next 6 months. But they will travel differently.

Why now? He says that we are at a severe disadvantage with lowest marketing budget . . .

Lowest budget in florida for destinations

Peter yesawich is presenting now.

We just took a break, the are calling everyone to order. My prediction. . .

My prediction is the the commission will approve the fourth cent not the fifth

Bay county commission meeting for the bed tax increase – Photo: http://bkite.com/03Tgz

Ok, meeting is flying by. Tdc tax rate is next on the agenda.

Looking around, it would seem that many have left-it doesn’t seem as packed as it did 30 minutes ago

Some seats still available, but pretty packed.

Tdc bed tax increase last on agenda. Going to be a long meeting.