Visitors pack the Oceanana Fishing Pier in Atlantic Beach for Labor Day, taking advantage of the unofficial last day of the summer tourist season. July occupancy tax revenues broke the singe-month record. Cheryl Burke / Carolina Coast Online

NC - July Breaks All-Time Occupancy Tax Revenue Record for Carteret County

EMERALD ISLE — Occupancy tax revenue for July “blew away” the previous one-month record, Carteret County Shore Protection Office Manager Greg Rudolph said Tuesday.

Collections for the month totaled $2.41 million, only the second time in history the tax has generated more than $2 million in a single month. The previous record was $2.02 million in July 2017, long before anyone had ever heard of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which many people thought would limit tourism this summer.

“What we think is that with the virus going on, many people who would normally get on a plane and fly somewhere for a vacation in the summer ‘discovered’ Bogue Banks,” Mr. Rudolph said.

In addition, more people are working remotely because of virus safety restrictions, and with computers and internet service, they can work from anywhere, including the beach.

“We started July down 9 percent in collections for the year,” largely because the virus and an associated stay-at-home order by Gov. Roy Cooper limited visitation in the spring, Mr. Rudolph said. “But now we’re up by 9 percent.”

That’s an astonishing change, since his office generally expects a year-to-year increase of only about 3 to 4%.

The occupancy tax is 6% of gross receipts derived from any room, lodging, campsite or accommodation furnished by any hotel, motel, inn, condominium, cottage, campground or rental agency. It’s always a crucial number for Mr. Rudolph, because the county’s beach nourishment fund gets half the proceeds.

It might be even more important this year because the county in the spring finished a $28.2 million nourishment project and is scheduled to start a $33.2 million project late this year or early next year.

Although much, if not all, of that $33.2 million will come from the Federal Emergency Management to pay to replace sand lost during Hurricane Florence, Mr. Rudolph had been concerned this spring about cash flow if the occupancy tax revenue didn’t improve and the FEMA money didn’t arrive in time.

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