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County Raises Bed Tax to 4%, a Victory for Milissa Holland’s Tourism Marketing Thrust

| October 18, 2010

milissa holland tourism in Flagler county

County Commissioner Milissa Holland considers tourism a centerpiece of Flagler's mixed-use future. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler County’s bed tax will increase from 3 percent to 4 percent beginning Jan. 1, raising projected revenue for marketing and advertising the county’s tourism from roughly $453,000 this year to $728,000 next year. Overall, tourist tax revenue will rise from $824,000 this year to $1.1 million next year.

“We have an untapped resource in this community, and that is our tourism,” County Commissioner Milissa Holland said late Monday evening, more than four hours into a commission meeting. She was on the verge of one of her biggest victories in her dual role as a county commissioner and as chairperson of the Tourist Development Council. People pay the bed tax when they stay in hotel rooms, RV parks and in short-term rental properties.

Holland sprang the increase on the tourist council in August as the second prong in a two-pronged approach to pushing tourism closer to the center of the county’s economic development efforts. If tourism is to grow, it has to be marketed, she argued, and marketed more than it has been. Current marketing efforts are paying off, Holland says: tourist tax revenue locally is up 14 percent over last year, while it’s down in other parts of the state (actually, not in every part). “So it’s worked. I think the momentum is there,” Holland said. She wants to build on it.

Not so, Commissioner Barbara Revels said, Revels. “We need to stay the course and not raise taxes. I just am greatly opposed to this. I think there are other ways” to bring in money, namely through better enforcement of short-term rental tax payments.

Andy Blair of the Hammock Beach Resort, also a member of the Tourist Development Council, spoke in opposition to the tax, arguing that Hammock Beach collects over $2 million in sales taxes, including 45 percent of the tourism taxes (average nightly rates are $250 there), employs 500 employees, and invests hundreds of thousands of dollars of its own to promote tourism and visits. “So our voice should be important to this issue,” Blair said. “If the increase is approved, we need help to market Hammock Beach properties.”

“You’ve just made my point,” Holland told him.

By early September, the proposal had made it to the county commission,which voted 4-1 to agree to hear the proposal. Monday evening Holland had the three votes necessary to get the higher tax: Hers, Alan Peterson’s and George Hanns’s.

But a problem arose. Tourist tax dollars are divided three ways, though not evenly. The largest portion goes to promotion and advertising of tourism, 30 percent goes to capital projects, and 15 percent goes to beach maintenance. To win Peterson’s support, Holland agreed to ensure that the portion of tourist tax dollars devoted to beach maintenance also increase proportionately. Once Holland made that motion, County Attorney Al Hadeed informed the commissioners again (as he had in writing, in documentation prepared for the commissioners ahead of the meeting) that to increase the tax proportionately, the commission needed a super-majority vote: 4 votes for passage, not just 3.

Holland didn’t have those four votes. Barbara Revels and Bob Abbott were opposed. And when the vote was called, the motion failed, 3-2. But Holland immediately put forward another motion betting that Peterson would stick with her and agree to forgo his issue with beach maintenance. Peterson did just that, and the same 3-2 vote carried the matter to conclusion.

As the tourist tax breakdown stands, 62.5 percent of the revenue will go to advertising and marketing (which also means adding staff), 22.5 percent will go to capital projects, and 11.5 percent will go to beach maintenance.

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19 Responses for “County Raises Bed Tax to 4%, a Victory for Milissa Holland’s Tourism Marketing Thrust”

  1. c.zossima says:

    Follow the money. What good has any of these various taxes actually done to improve the lives of Flagler county residents? None. Tourism in Flagler co? A few months ago a small group of citizens stood at the edge of the railroad tracks in Bunnell holding signs in hopes of getting a ‘tourist’ train stop considered at the corner of Rt 100 and the railroad. The ‘projects’ and the drug culture are a stones throw away. The strip along railroad? street looks like backside of an inner city ghetto..oh that’s is. Has anyone ever heard the phrase “the road to hell was paved with good intentions”? Not to mention the loss of tax payer money on wishful thinking. BTW, there are so many more important issues in Flagler co that need to be addressed than ‘tourism’.

  2. wsh302 says:

    holland has a smile on her face like she has done domething great for the human race. if this tax does not work, than i am sure our brillant leaders will find another solution to bring in money, like raise taxes again.

  3. Maurice says:

    I hope you two morons above know that tax is not coming from residents of Flagler County, it comes from the visitors who stay at the local lodging facilities here in Flagler County, I’m sure you two were tourists at one point but probably overlooked that little bed tax when you stayed at a hotel/motel. Get a life douche bags!

  4. Imagine says:

    I don’t think this increase is a big deal. Orlando’s tax is 6%. It is possible it could backfire since there is absolutely nothing to do in Flagler County except golf.

  5. Colleen says:

    Hopefully, they will use some of that money to completely renovate their ballfields and create a sports complex to host football and baseball tournaments. We have no idea the amount of money 200 to 300 families coming into our area for a weekend can bring! Our fields are a total disgrace. Travel around and take a look!!

  6. Johnny Tax Payer says:

    If I read this article correctly, Ms. Holland now thinks she knows better how to bring in tourists to the Hammock Beach Resort, than the Hammock Beach Resort themselves. Does that not strike anyone as odd?
    “Andy Blair of the Hammock Beach Resort , spoke in opposition to the tax, arguing that Hammock Beach collects over $2 million in sales taxes, including 45 percent of the tourism taxes (average nightly rates are $250 there), employs 500 employees, and invests hundreds of thousands of dollars of its own to promote tourism and visits. “So our voice should be important to this issue,”

    Ms Holland’s response, ““You’ve just made my point,”

    No, he didn’t! The Hammock Beach Resort, as the largest venue for tourism taxes in the county, are against the tax! If the tax would bring more tourism, they would be all for it! But then again, why should a private company, in the tourism business, know more than an uneducated Commissioner, who’s never worked in the business?

  7. Did anyone watch the meeting??? says:

    If anyone watched the meeting they would know that Flagler offers more than just golf and the beach. We brought in more revenue in bed tax than Volusia County in 2009 – 2010. The lack of pride you have in your community is depressing. Get out and enjoy one of our 44 parks & preserves. Go visit the Ag Museum. Do something besides degrade the community you live in.

    To add to Commissioner Holland’s point, she told Mr. Blair that his entire argument made her point. He stated that they need money to bring in guests so they don’t lose them to other destinations. And yes, the additional 1% (which roughly equates to 1 penny) is being added to a guests tax on their stay. That money goes back to market EVERY business in Flagler County that touches a visitor.

    Ballfields and other such properties have to apply for money to get money to upgrade. And this money comes from a completely different fund.

    Do yourselves a favor and get educated before you make ridiculous statements.

  8. DLF says:

    How do we increase the number of people coming to this area by improving football and baseball fields? Maybe we should improve the senior center so we get more seniors coming to this area. A tax is a tax is a tax, what we do with it no one will ever know, just like all the other tax money we give to the spenders in Washington.

  9. Ball Coach says:

    Apparently you have never had kids play sports. Last summer our daughter played on a travel softball team. When we were gone for 3 days away from home, we had to stay in hotels, eat in local restraunts, and shop in their stores. Now when you bring in 10-15 teams with families staying in your area, money comes along with them. If our fields were even remotely useable for something like that, you do the math… This tax will not improve them, but the County really should look at investing funds into them beacuse it is another avenue of income just as I stated above. It is funny though like DAWTM said, people sit here and bash the community they live in… I guess it’s easier to sit in the chair and bitch about it, than to get out and actually do something about it…

  10. Colleen says:

    I’m sorry I saw that it said Capital improvements, why would ball fields not be capital improvements or capital projects? Ball coach is exactly right, there is much money that could be brought into our county if we had the proper facilities. I wasn’t trying to be nasty but seriously when you travel outside the county to other areas you’d understand what we are saying. Believe me we spend a ton of money in Ocala or anywhere else when we go to a weekend tournament.

  11. DLF says:

    Coach, are you telling me if we build it they will come?

  12. c.zozzima says:

    Well, Maurice (above) began his weak argument by name calling as would a third grader. I believe he used the name ‘morons’. Then he ended his childish rant with yet another name calling, specifically ‘douche bags’. I must say this little man must find it safe to shoot his play ground mouth off while hiding in a public forum. Normally I would address the issue of excessive taxation, however, I do not believe the little man gets it. So I’ll end this by simply saying that America has become dumbed down…and it becomes obvious when someone like Maurice spouts off in a pubic forum. lol.

  13. Barney Smythe says:

    The only time the tourist come is the overflow bike/race weeks. Every other time is just weary travelers who got stuck in yet another accident in the 10 mile Flagler stretch!!

  14. Barney Smythe says:

    Sounds like Flagler Enterprise just got the raise they wanted without having it go to a vote!!

  15. Maurice says:

    @c.zozzima: I stand by my statement you asshat, get educated about the bedtax, but you wouldn’t know, because you bitch about the community and taxes, but do nothing but eschew idiocy about a tax you clearly don’t understand.

  16. FlaglerLive says:

    Barney, there’s no connection between the Tourist Development Council and Enterprise Flagler–either in leadership or in management, and certainly not in transparency. You can see every dime the tourism council spends, down to specific grants or marketing campaigns (or to be more accurate, recommends to be spent: the county commission signs off ultimately). Those accounts are made public pretty rigorously.

  17. c.zozzima says:

    Here we go again..Maurice calling names like the little man he is…This time asshat. Ouch. lol.

  18. David says:

    Don’t be fooled here. This is just another Chamber Tax. One Chamber Tax was pulled so they had to find another way to fund the Chamber.

  19. c.zozzima says:

    There once was a laddy named Moynahan ..
    His mouth was bigger than his feet
    He made up for his diminutive presence
    By spitting profanity through his teeth

    A sure sign of a low low IQ
    The leprechaun’s ire he had
    But like all little green cowards boo hoo
    Even in his warm beer he was mad.


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