The county will raise the tourist tax by 1%, and direct $2 million to beach restoration in the first year after the change.
Flagler County will raise its tourist tax by 1% and direct $2 million in tourist tax money to beach restoration, tweaking the formula by which the tax revenue is allocated, and pulling $500,000 out of a tourism capital improvements fund.
The current tourist tax rate in Flagler County is 4%. The additional 1% is expected to bring in an additional $500,000 that could be used to help the county qualify for state or federal matching grants to repair beach damage caused by Hurricane Matthew.
The proposal to raise the tourist tax — a tax applied to hotels, motels and campgrounds — to pay for beach restoration was proposed in February and presented to the County Commission.
County Commissioner Donald O'Brien noted that the initial proposal raised the amount of money to be allocated to beach restoration, but also significantly raised the money that would be set aside for the county's promotions fund: 60% of the money would go to promotions, with the remaining money going to beach restitution in the first year, then being divided between beach restoration and a capital improvement fund in following years.
O'Brien suggested reversing that, and having 60% of the money — $1.5 million — go to beach restoration in the first year, and $1 million to the promotions budget. The promotions fund has a surplus, and could maintain its budget for a year without the additional income, he suggested.
"My sole thought in this whole process was to find every dollar that we could to offset the matching that we know we’re going to need," he said at a joint workshop between the County Commission and the Tourist Development Council March 20.
County staff also proposed pulling $500,000 from the capital improvement fund and adding it to the beach restoration fund this year, bringing the total allocation for the beach to $2 million.
Over three years, the proposal will collect $2.75 million for beach restoration, county tourism chief Matt Dunn said. The county expects that it will need a $7.5 million match for beach restoration grants.
Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland, who sits on the Tourist Development Council, said she was concerned about pulling money out of the capital projects fund, which has been used to pay for renovations at sports fields in Palm Coast in the past.
"I am in agreement for shifting towards the beach restoration fund, because that is critical," she said. "But … we need to make investments in our capital improvements fund."
But the TDC approved the proposal by a unanimous vote in a special meeting after the joint workshop, and the County Commission approved it unanimously during a commission meeting later the same day.