Naturists gather to soak up the sun and sea on this clothing-optional portion of Haulover Beach between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. - Patrick Farrell for VISIT FLORIDA

Changes could be coming to county ‘bed tax’ spending

The St. Johns County Tourist Development Council (TDC) and County Commission will look at possible changes to the amount and structure of the county’s tourist development tax.

The tax on short-term rentals — often referred to as the bed tax — is currently at 4 percent. It is used to promote out-of-county tourism, fund some arts programs and marketing, beach renourishment, and pay for tourist-related infrastructure improvements, among other things.

At issue this week is the decision on whether to increase the tax to 5 percent and/or to reallocate some of the money toward more beach renourishment or other uses.

The TDC board administers the bed tax money (although the Commission must approve its budget). The board voted last year to recommend to increase the bed tax and devote the additional revenue, as much as possible, to beach nourishment. The Commission, which has the final say on such an increase, will vote on that Tuesday.

At the same time, leaders of the municipalities have expressed interest in getting access to some bed tax money for infrastructure improvements.

On Monday, the TDC will vote on a reallocation formula, which has not been well received by everyone involved.

The proposal calls for creating a fifth category, the exact purpose of which has not been determined. The worry for some in the destination marketing side of things is that the reallocation will take money away from its efforts.

If the TDC votes to create the fifth category, and the Commission approves it at the Tuesday meeting, that could change how things are funded. There is no guarantee the Commission will add the fifth percent to the bed tax, so a reallocation would spread the TDC money more thinly.

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