Bed Tax – 4th cent passed, 5th cent tabled

by January 20, 2009 • 11 comments

I’ve been getting emails that are telling me that if we pass the bed tax increase then people will stop coming here because the rates will be too high and all the businesses will shut down and we’ll all go away, and I’ve been getting emails that say that if we don’t pass the bed tax increase then people won’t know about us and we’ll all just wither away and all the businesses will shut down – so, I don’t know what’s going to happen," said Jerry Girvin, Chairman of the Bay County Commission.

It’s just not the right time to be doing this, I don’t believe it is the right thing to do." – George Gainer, commissioner.

Girvin and Gainer were the two that opposed the bed tax increase this morning.  At the beginning, Girvin said he wasn’t sure how he was going to decide when it came time to vote.  Mike Thomas, sensing uncertainty in the air urged that they vote on the 4th cent and table the 5th so as to provide more time for other board members to learn more about the issues at hand.  The 4th cent only required a majority vote, whereas the 5th required a super majority or 4 of the 5 members.

When it came time to vote for the 4th cent, Dozier, Thomas and Nelson voted yes, while Girvin and Gainer voted no, passing the 4th cent.  They all agreed to table the 5th until next month’s meeting.

Commissioners, you did a very great thing today in passing the 4th cent.  We now have the money to broaden our marketing efforts and increase our feeder market potential.  We now will have the marketing dollars to draw new vistors to our area that previously had not known we were here.  That is important, very important.

However, there is still another very important decision to be made.  We need the 5th cent.  We have to improve our sporting and special events facilities.  We have good business that will leave us if we don’t improve.  There are thousands of athletes that are counting on the improvement of our area so that they can continue to come back here in the future.  There are hundreds of condo owners that rely on this business every year.  Pier Park and other shops and restaurants in Panama City Beach rely on this business to give then a shot in the arm during tournament season.

I don’t think you truly understand how big this business is or how important this particular issue is. I urge you and encourage you to do your homework before the next meeting so that you fully understand the issue at hand.  In the mean time, I’ll get with the TDC and Richard Sanders and try and get a clear picture and post it here on pcbdaily.

On another note, technology was in my favor today and I was doing updates via Twitter all morning during the meeting.  I say technology was in my favor, but actually, my phone did crash towards the end but came back up after only 20 minutes of suspense!  argh

Enjoy the tweets (note, I’m sorry if the formating seems rough and unprofessional below, but there are so many of them, I just don’t have the energy to dress it up, but I wanted you to see all the commentary):

Dozier supports it. The fourth will pass. Will the fifth….. Gervin?

5th cent tabled along with the development plan for 2009

Girven voted no on 4th. Three voted yes so it passed

Thomas for it, hopes it all passes

Thomas says that if we do nothing it will be the greatest mistake they’ve made.

Thomas asks to table the 5th cent until the feb meeting

Says the experts are telling us to do this- why don’t we listen

Mike thomas asked if there was a dr – he’s about to have a stroke

Dozier talking. Says people don’t care about a 2 cent tax

Girven not totally committed which way he’s going to come down.

Also said that if we keep the fee where it is, people won’t come down here and we’ll go broke

Said that if we raise the fee people will go elsewhere and we’ll go broke.

Chairman girven talking now. Has heard from a lot of people that were not happy

Nelson rebuts. We’ve got to get our name out there.

Gainer still opposed

Gainer talking. Keeps comparing to his car business. It just isn’t applicable. Give it up george!

Motion to pass the 4th. And … Discussion

Nelson says we need to listen to the tdc and that they know the issues

We need three of five for the 4th and four of five for the 5th

Says bed tax increase is from the tdc doing its job. That they have been making great progress

Says tdc is not perfect. There are collection issues that will be addressed

Commissioner nelson talking now

Closed public hearing

Says the businesses should pay for their own advertising

Ron shranger. Doesn’t oppose advertising but opposes the way we want to pauy for it

He is not for eliminating college break all together but taking ot out in phases

Mark canfora up. Infinity blu. Says this market is the number one area for growth

Phone crashed, back up now. Julie hilton, russ smith spoke

We spent the money on frank brown and it worked. We spend the money on more and it will work.

Owns a small business and said his business grew when he spent money on it. Supports the increase

Bill mcneil pres of bay co chamber. Supports the 2 cent increase.

Wishes we could move away from spring break quicker but glad we are moving away

Peter bruchae is up. Hates spring break and agrees that we have moved away from it.

Said if we had to go to 15 percent- anything to get our area more discovered.

Says we can’t go backwards. We’ve got the development, now we have to tell people about it.

Knows we exist. Many from back home would like it down here.

Ben kernun is talking. From northeast and says that very few people that he knows back home

We can only do it with more money

Leanne leonard from by the sea. Says we need to attract more visitors and. . .

Julie hilton is here, waiting to see her go up- she is not for the increase.

Said it would be a stimulus to our area.

Beth oltman beach chamber pres supports strongly the increase from a business owner position

14000 weddings in the panhandle- avg $25k per. We can frow that is people knew about us.

Says tdc is only promoting bringing spring breakers here. Not a very good argument- nor very educated

With increased marketing $$ we can brand our destination is a broader scope of markets

Joanne banks with diva productions up.

Joy wants lifeguards and no underage drinking and for this to be a family destination- totally agree

Joy carlisle- feels like the tdc is throwing money away

Opening up for public comment

Dan rowe back up- said this year is the first that we are actively promoting family spring break

No vote puts us in a position to fail, yes vote puts us in a position to succeed

Less than 2 percent have asked what the tax rate is. He has polled those calling his rental business.

Do we want to support growth or do we step aside and just see what happens.

Bill dozier left, bathroom?

He says that this is something that we should have done four years ago

If we don’t have the ability to gain more visitors then how can we fill all the new opportunity

Worried that we will have a bad rental year. We need more marketing dollars now.

Marty mcdaniel speaking now representing 2000 units in pcb

Mexico beach is taling now- they are hurting and need more money "work like hell and advertise"

They did it despite immense public scrutiny because there was a need.

Buddy is comparing the bed tax increase to the county’s building their new facilities.

Southern living full page ad is over $100,000. Holy cow.

Buddy wilkes speaking now.

Says needs 2 pennies. Has to drive people to pier park and the new 6000 rooms.

Mike bennett is talking now. He agrees with the increase but his dad doesn’t totally

Patronis says our neighbors have more money than we do. We are not competitive

Patronis is focusing attention on gainer

4th cent for marketing only.

Yonnie patronis is talking now. Urging the 5th cent for sports marketing.

Thomas… Said the auto industry (gainer) has gotten plenty

Mike thomas asked if there had been a bailout planned for the tourism industry

Has cut spring break funding eaxh year.

I highly doubt we’ll get the vote of george gainer. He very much disagrees with raising any tax

Just reported that they would like to see the entire funding for spring break to come from coop

Increase in marketing budget by more than double.

Increase is the same cost for someone staying a week as two value meals at zaxby’s

7 out of 10 housholds in the us are planning to travel in the next 6 months. But they will travel differently.

Why now? He says that we are at a severe disadvantage with lowest marketing budget . . .

Lowest budget in florida for destinations

Peter yesawich is presenting now.

We just took a break, the are calling everyone to order. My prediction. . .

My prediction is the the commission will approve the fourth cent not the fifth

Bay county commission meeting for the bed tax increase – Photo: http://bkite.com/03Tgz

Ok, meeting is flying by. Tdc tax rate is next on the agenda.

Looking around, it would seem that many have left-it doesn’t seem as packed as it did 30 minutes ago

Some seats still available, but pretty packed.

Tdc bed tax increase last on agenda. Going to be a long meeting.

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11 Comments

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1 Gregg January 20, 2009 at 7:47 pm

Was there any conversation concerning tax collection, or lack of it?

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2 Bryan Durta January 20, 2009 at 11:22 pm

I believe only 1/2 of the 5th cent was being allocated for sports and special event capital expenditures. Since it seems to be quite possible that the 5th cent will fail, the TDC board now needs to consider allocating half of the 4th cent just passed to marketing and half to these important capital expenditures. This would still greatly increase our available advertising dollars by about 50%, while at the same time providing the full capital improvement amount.

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3 roman January 21, 2009 at 12:54 am

I believe that P. C. Beach is at the end of the road .

& that , only people, that wish to come here . – Will.

Sports vacations need to be created and marketed for locals & guests.

What a great client – healthy people , involved & needing a break.

Pass , the 5th penny . Only then can PCB be equal .

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4 HP January 27, 2009 at 9:50 am

Enforcement of current tax should come before adding an additional burden to those of us who pay. We have already had to reduce our rents due to so many new projects. With all these new towers, how could taxes not be up tremendously??? Do they not get that visitors look at bottom line, and therefore owners have to reduce rates again to meet bottom line for more tax. Less money for owners means more foreclosures and that isn’t beneficial to anyone. Put a larger fee on team registration or something like that to pay for more sports facilities. A pay for those that play.
Now is not the time to be adding more taxes, but most of the property owners do not have representation since we are out of state, so we again get shafted, especially if we are playing by the rules.

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5 Jason Koertge January 27, 2009 at 9:57 am

I agree that enforcement needs to be put in place, but our taxes are not up tremendously because the tax is levied from visitors, not condo owners. if you don’t rent your condo, you don’t pay the tax.

Visitor traffic has not grown in the same proportion as the amount of new condos that are in the rental pool. It takes more visitors or a higher bed tax to increase the revenue generated.

If you put a larger registration fee on those that play here, I suspect what you will get is those tournaments going where it doesn’t cost as much. We’re not the only tournament destination in the country and we have to be competitive. If we are not, then they will take all the money they infuse into every aspect of our economy (shops, restaurants, entertainment, room rentals) somewhere else.

Now is the time to be adding more taxes because we need to be spending more money getting people here so people like you have at least a fighting chance of renting your condo. You may not benefit directly, but indirectly outsiders will gain an increased awareness of our area, thereby increasing your chances of renting your condo.

Everyone has to remember that this is bigger than you and me. This is about our destination as a whole.

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6 John January 27, 2009 at 10:42 am

There is a period in Late June and through most of July where I am already booked up and turning people away. It is because of SPORTS, specifically a Women’s National Softball Championship tournament, which apparently recieves little funding, if any from the TDC other than Frank Brown Park.

Now THAT is something we could use more of !

What about swimming championships?

What about a “Golf Tuneup” promotion in the early spring to get folks from the north back out on the links a few weeks early and get thier game back in shape. Daily instruction / clinics at the ranges, stretching and fitness programs for golfers, and special fees at the courses. Course groupings ranging from easy to hard to allow them to find thier game and rise to a challenge. This could go down in March – April…which could nibble away at our spring break habit ? We could also remind them that September / October / November are some of our best months for golf so they have a reason to return then. (which are also off peak).

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7 HP January 27, 2009 at 11:21 am

I feel current effort should be on collecting current tax versus raising rate. Vacationers look at bottom line and with new tax, we will again have to lower our rates. We have already lowered them due to extra availability of lodging. Lower rates for owners means more foreclosures, which is bad for everyone. I am glad at least 2 board members “get it”. Let those who play sports pay. Perhaps you could raise tournament fees or something. Cannot enforce current laws due to lack of funding, let some of new taxes fund enforcement.
Once again as an out of state property owner, we get taxation without representation.

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8 roman January 28, 2009 at 5:49 pm

I called or email , most of my friends over the last few days.
With some questions .
1. Where, do you like to go on vacation ?
2. Why , there ?
3. How much was the bed tax ?

Lots ,of GREAT answers for 1. & 2.

3. NOT ONE PERSON , COULD TELL ME WHAT THE BED TAX WAS !

Can you ?

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9 Bryan Durta January 28, 2009 at 7:23 pm

It is reasonable for us to assume that just about no one asks what the bed tax is before making a reservation.

However, it is not reasonable for us to assume that the tax rate doesn’t matter to our visitors. In fact, we are asking the wrong question.

The correct question should be: “Do you look at the bill you receive when you check out of your hotel/condo?” Just because someone doesn’t ask about taxes when making a reservation, they may feel overtaxed when the final bill arrives. And people who overtaxed might decide not to come back to our beautiful destination.

Another way to look at the situation:
Just about no one asks about those mandatory “resort fees” that are now added to the room rate at some properties for things like use of the pool or phone. Just because someone doesn’t ask before arrival doesn’t mean that they won’t feel ripped off and stay at a different hotel/condo next time.

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10 LBResort 3 January 29, 2009 at 9:00 am

People do care about the add-ons. There was an article in the WSJ yesterday concerning how people are suddenly looking at all on their bills and are shocked on what they are paying. The WSJ calls it “bill creep” where all the add-ons show up in the total.

On the majority of our rentals, the customer now wants to know the final total cost before they make the reservation. Was there not a letter in the media lately that stated that people are upset about a automatic tip being added to their bill for a table of 6 or more? The letter stated that they would no longer eat at places that tacked on the charge. People are concerned as to what they have to pay.

Jason, your point about increasing the fees on sporting events as to hurting business is applicalbe to rentals. If you want to see if the increase will matter, go over to the Canadian Embassey located at Middle Beach and Lyndall and tell them that they will be paying 1 or 2% more next year for their rentals. I think that they come to PCB because it is a little cheaper. They “shop and compare!”

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11 Ron February 5, 2009 at 9:17 am

I believe Bryan and LBResort 3 have a good understanding of the situation. The bottom line is the bottom line.

There is a cost to doing business. It doesn’t matter if you are a restaurant, big box store, condo owner/renter or whatever. Each one has its own peculiar costs. And, its up to each to learn to manage their costs efficiently. This includes bringing pressure on the regulatory powers to not place burdensome fees and taxes on your operation.

Now, as a consumer, I have no concern with your costs or operating issues. I’m only concerned with the bottom line. And I do ask the total before I book. I’ve made that mistake a few times. If I have two (or more) comparable units to choose from and all things being equal, I’m naturally going to choose the less expensive.

How they got to be the least expensive is of no concern to me. That’s their business model and plan, not mine. I’m simply kicking back and enjoying the beach.

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