If visitors to the Florida Keys aren’t impressed by the places they visit, the chances of them returning are slim.
That’s one of the ideas behind rules that could result in more money for local nonprofits or municipalities to complete capital projects that attract visitors and keep them coming back.
Monroe County Mayor George Neugent told the Marathon City Council Tuesday night that local officials have voiced support for changes to the way county Tourist Development Council bed-tax collections are distributed.
Currently, the county’s bed money breaks down in five ways. A visitor staying in a hotel with a nightly rate of $100 would receive a bill of $112.50. Of that, $7.50 would be sales tax. The other $5, bed taxes, would be broken down into different categories.
Half of one dollar goes to the county’s land acquisition fund while the other half goes to the county’s general fund. Two dollars goes to the TDC to advertise the Florida Keys nationally and internationally, Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dan Samess said.
The last $2 go to the TDC’s district advisory committees in whichever geographic area the bed tax is raised.. There are five committees extending from Key West to Key Largo. Less than half of the DAC money goes into a “bricks and mortar fund” that’s used to reimburse nonprofits and governments for building projects. What goes unused is rolled back into advertising.
Neugent explained he wants money for bricks and mortar projects to stay in the bricks and mortar fund instead of being used for advertising. This way, the fund would build over time and be better used to reimburse cities and nonprofits.
Under current county rules, a nonprofit that wants money to spruce up its property has to prove it has 100 percent of the funds to complete it and then they are eligible to receive 50 percent back from the bricks and mortar fund. Municipalities can receive 75 percent back.
Under new rules, should they be adopted by the County Commission, nonprofits would be eligible to get 75 percent of the money back and municipalities would be able to receive 100 percent, like the county does for its projects.
Neugent said he’s received support for the changes from officials in Islamorada, Key West and Key Colony Beach. He’ll go before the Tourist Development Council to explain the changes on Jan. 24 and in February or March, he’ll present it to the County Commission, which makes the final decision.
“I will not be recommending these changes to board members,” said Harold Wheeler, director of the Tourist Development Council, who did not comment further.
Marathon City Council members voiced support but did not vote Tuesday on the resolution. The council will address it again at its Feb. 14 meeting. The Jan. 24 City Council meeting was canceled due to a light agenda.
Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219