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City pushes for bigger cut of tourist tax cash

Indian Rocks Beach officials support a 20 percent increase but say more should be spent in the beach communities.

By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA
Published July 27, 2005


INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - Beach communities are short-shrifted by Pinellas County when it comes to sharing tax revenues generated by tourists.

That was the clear message sent by the City Commission last week as it very reluctantly supported a proposed 20 percent increase in the tourist "bed tax."

The current 4 percent tax is paid by the more than 5-million annual visitors renting hotel or motel rooms, condominiums, apartments, homes or mobile homes for six months or less.

Last year, the bed tax generated more than $16-million in revenue for the county. A quarter of that, or about $4-million, is reserved for beach renourishment. Another $4-million is reserved for paying off the city of St. Petersburg's bonds for Tropicana Field. The remaining $8-million of the 4 percent tax is used primarily for tourist development activity, including operating tourist information centers and advertising.

The proposed additional cent in tourist bed taxes would be spent for even more advertising, particularly on the international scene.

Indian Rocks Beach officials say they are grateful for monies spent on beach renourishment, but insist the county should spend much more in the beach communities.

An official resolution passed last week was blunt:

"The Indian Rocks Beach Commission does hereby express its severe dissatisfaction with the lack of financial support provided by the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners toward offsetting the costs incurred by the city and other beach communities to meet the service demands created by the millions of annual visitors to Pinellas County."

The city says the county should help pay for:

- Daily and weekly beach cleanup.

- Additional law enforcement to meet demands created by millions of visitors.

- Pedestrian and bicycle safety measures.

- Additional public parking.

- Street sweeping on Gulf Boulevard.

- "Full funding" for putting utilities underground.

- Tourist amenities including public restrooms and docks.

- Grants for building facade improvements and redevelopment.

This list was much more than Lee Daniel, deputy director of the county's convention and visitor's bureau, bargained for when he appeared before the commission seeking support for the additional penny in tourist tax.

"I just hope he takes this message with him to the County Commission," said Mayor Bill Ockunzzi.

[Last modified July 27, 2005, 01:05:14]


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