Visitors are #1 in Flagler County, Florida

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One percent increase in Tourism Development Tax places priority on visitor when it comes to boosting coastline recovery efforts

Tourism is more important than ever in Flagler County. During a March 20 meeting, the Flagler County Board of Commissioners met to approve a one percent increase in the County’s Tourist Development Tax, assessed to overnight visitors to the destination. The County’s Tourist Development Tax rate, which was previously at four percent, will be increased to five percent, the maximum allowed by law for Flagler County, and implemented June 1, 2017.

A three-year, tiered plan will be applied to restore the County’s coastline following hurricane Matthew, which occurred in early October 2016. It is estimated that the County currently needs $7.5 million dollars of matching funds to receive both Federal and State grants that will assist the County with the coastline recovery efforts. The total amount that will need to be borrowed to complete the project will determine the length and terms of the loan. If lower than projected funds are needed, the loan terms will be shorter. If higher than projected funds are needed, the loan terms will be longer. Tourism Development Tax collections will directly impact the loan amount and terms.

Visitors to the area will play an increasingly important role in stimulating the local economy, therefore making it possible to meet Federal and State grants funds and contributing to the beach rehabilitation. With tourists playing such an important role contributing to beach recovery efforts, it’s time for the community to pull together to show exceptional customer service, providing unrivaled vacation experiences to visitors in the area.

“Visitors to the County are valuable in a number of ways. They enhance our quality of life because they support a broader array of restaurants and shops than could be offered to a local audience alone. They also provide revenue to enhance public facilities, expanding recreational opportunities for both residents and visitors,” said Craig Coffey, county administrator. “The tourist is more important than ever because visitor spending will help us recover from Hurricane Matthew.”

County commissioners first discussed the prospect of a Tourism Development Tax increase during a Feb. 20 joint workshop with the Tourism Development Council. Both boards seemed favorable to that idea, a three-year tiered plan to raise Fund 111′s stake of the funding pie from 11.25 percent to 60 percent in the first year before it gradually fell each year before stabilizing at 20 percent in 2019.

Flagler was one of the hardest hit counties during Hurricane Matthew as the storm decimated of its 18-mile coastline. Coffey estimates two projects to begin repairing the dunes this year will cost $25 million.

Flagler County’s Tourist Development Tax is currently allocated into three separate funds, including promotions, capital projects and beach restoration. Under the newly approved three-year, tiered plan, the Beach Restoration Fund will be on target to collect a total of $2,750,000, a 290% increase, versus the $700,000 it’s estimated to collect under the current tax rate. Following the three-year, tiered plan, the Beach Restoration Fund is expected to collect a minimum of $500,000 per year.

The current balance for the Beach Restoration Fund is $1,500,000 and has already been pledged by the Board of County Commissioners, along with a $500,000 direct appropriation from the Capital Projects Fund for Federal and State grant matching funds.

Flagler County’s cinnamon colored, coquina sand beaches are all open for business and most beach walkovers have been repaired–welcoming visitors from around the world to enjoy surfer quality waves and Mother Nature at her finest.

“Beaches are open for business, we are returning to a normal level of tourism and it’s important that we, as a community, continue to extend the accommodating level of hospitality that traditionally has kept visitors returning to our area again and again,” added Coffey.