Florence’s Toll: Room Tax Revenues In Focus

The blue tarps that dotted the landscape from Carteret to Brunswick counties are disappearing, businesses are reopening, but as communities reliant on tourism prepare for the season ahead, they’re faced with the reality that the damage to local economies from Hurricane Florence is still unfolding.

This year, as coastal counties and towns in North Carolina consider annual budgets, the damaged beaches, closed hotels and countless of yet-to-be repaired rental units are expected to drive down occupancy rates and, with them, the key source of funding for beach re-nourishment and coastal flooding repairs at a time of need.

Last year, a running tally of the costs to repair beaches, clear inlets and fix berms and flood control infrastructure reached a staggering $352 million. State officials reviewing the costs said it would be difficult to get close to the amount needed without a mix of federal, state and local funding. They estimated the state’s share at close to $163 million. But determining the local match is difficult because the required cash outlays for towns vary according to the type of project and the source of funding.

Those requirements and whether communities can meet them are now an even bigger question mark because for most communities affected by the storm, occupancy taxes are the main source of funds for beach re-nourishment and berm-replacement projects.

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