Tuesday, January 23, 2018
News Roundup

Bed tax hike looming for 2014 as Pasco looks to boost tourism

NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco commissioners say the debate about whether to increase the tax on hotel rooms will likely surface again next year as they look for ways to lure sports tournaments and boost tourism.

The 2 percent tax on hotel stays — or bed tax, as it's known — has been derided by hotel owners since its inception in the early 1990s. But Pasco officials say it's necessary and should be increased to lure more athletic events such as the Dick's Sporting Goods Lacrosse Tournament of Champions, which draws more than 90 teams yearly.

The tax is already the region's lowest — behind Hernando and Citrus counties, which charge 3 percent each on hotel stays, and Pinellas and Hillsborough, which charge 5 percent.

"If we're looking to generate revenues not on the backs of our citizens, this may be the best way to do that," Pasco Commissioner Henry Wilson said of the tax.

The problem is Pasco's tourism development office — wholly supported by bed taxes — is tapped out and can't entice more athletic tournaments until it figures out how to increase revenue to pay for promotions.

That's left officials contemplating a boost in bed taxes, not only for sports marketing but a host of programs from field maintenance to capital projects such as the proposed youth sports complex at Wiregrass Ranch.

Over the years, tourism officials have built a nest egg of more than $8 million for Wiregrass. The $34 million baseball and softball complex would be built in partnership with Tampa-based Blue Marble Strategic.

The bed tax debate surfaces almost yearly. Previous attempts to increase it have stalled, mainly due to a backlash from hotel owners. It's likely commissioners will hear similar arguments this time around, too — including from the county's biggest player in tourism, Saddlebrook Resort.

Greg Riehle, senior vice president of Saddlebrook, said his company has paid more than $5 million since the tax started and hasn't seen much return outside the annual lacrosse tournament.

"We get almost no bang for our buck," Riehle said, adding the tax hurts the resort and its employees and limits the company's ability to lure parties and conventions on fixed budgets. "Every hotelier I talk to is against it."

Another criticism, this one aimed at Wiregrass, argues that's it's too early to boost bed taxes when the Wiregrass deal with Blue Marble hasn't been finalized.

"No one has demonstrated what the money will be used for," Pasco Commissioner Ted Schrader said. "The only argument I'm hearing is that the surrounding counties have a higher bed tax so we should. That's not a good enough reason."

Commission Chairman Jack Mariano said he has concerns too. Bed taxes have helped projects in east Pasco — including Wiregrass and the lacrosse fields at Wesley Chapel District Park — but they haven't benefitted west Pasco.

"We're taking all of our tourist development money and putting all of it over at one end of the county and I don't think that's right," he said. "I think we should pull all these plans together, as far as what we want, and see if we can design parks in the right way that can create revenue for everyone."

Mariano said he expects the bed tax debate to resume shortly after the new year.

"It may not come up for a vote, but to talk about it anyway," he said.

Rich Shopes can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.

Comments
Career Q&A: Sharpen interview skills to overcome impression of shyness

Career Q&A: Sharpen interview skills to overcome impression of shyness

Q: At the end of a recent interview, the manager told me that I would not be getting the job. He said I wasn’t a good fit for the position because I was shy. As a naturally introverted person, I found this very discouraging. How can I avoid similar p...
Updated: 30 minutes ago
Lawmakers call for additional investigations into Tampa Bay’s two CareerSource boards

Lawmakers call for additional investigations into Tampa Bay’s two CareerSource boards

Federal and state lawmakers are calling on Congress and the Florida House of Representatives to investigate whether two regional workforce centers inflated the number of people they helped find jobs. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D–St. Petersburg, and sta...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Undersea quake causes fear of tsunami in Alaska; Kentucky teen kills 2 classmates in shooting; ex-gymnast tells Nassar: ‘You didn’t heal me. You only hurt me’; more in U.S. news

Undersea quake causes fear of tsunami in Alaska; Kentucky teen kills 2 classmates in shooting; ex-gymnast tells Nassar: ‘You didn’t heal me. You only hurt me’; more in U.S. news

AlaskaUndersea quake causes panicA powerful undersea earthquake sent Alaskans fumbling for suitcases and racing to evacuation centers in the middle of the night after a cellphone alert warned a tsunami could hit communities along the state’s southern...
Updated: 2 hours ago
MacDill crews shift from Islamic State battle to join winter fight against Taliban

MacDill crews shift from Islamic State battle to join winter fight against Taliban

Now that the fight against the largely defeated Islamic State is winding down, the U.S. Air Force is turning its efforts toward the Taliban and moving aircraft and crews to Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.Crews and a KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refue...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Deputies identify 11-month-old who drowned, no other details released

Deputies identify 11-month-old who drowned, no other details released

BRANDON — The 11-month-old girl who drowned in an apartment complex pond on Monday was identified as Deleah Morgan by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday.Deputies released no other details about the incident or the ongoing investigation....
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: A good first step in restoring the right to vote

Editorial: A good first step in restoring the right to vote

Allowing felons a meaningful chance to reclaim their right to vote and rejoin civic life is edging closer to reality in Florida. On Tuesday the state announced that a yearslong petition drive to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot h...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Man, 60, arrested in fatal shooting of his neighbor in Holiday

HOLIDAY — A 60-year-old man fatally shot his neighbor on Tuesday while the younger man stood outside his own home, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said Qiu Feng Kek shot Edward Tudor, 37, outside 3519 Richboro Drive. He died a...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Avalanche causes evacuations in Italy; indictment says Madsen abused journalist Wall before killing her; more in world news

Avalanche causes evacuations in Italy; indictment says Madsen abused journalist Wall before killing her; more in world news

Italy150 evacuated after avalancheFour helicopters evacuated 150 people trapped in a four-star hotel and other remote structures Tuesday after an avalanche, authorities said, as heavy snow caused disruption across the Alps. The Langtauferer Hotel, lo...
Updated: 3 hours ago
ScarFace the Osprey scarfs up prized neckwear to make Coquina Key home

ScarFace the Osprey scarfs up prized neckwear to make Coquina Key home

ST. PETERSBURGSome 25 feet up in the air, towering over Coquina Key, sits an osprey surveying the park below.It is on the hunt for any bit of material so it can prepare a nest for future hatchlings. Whether it be sticks, hay, palm leaves, a trash bag...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Special counsel questions Sessions; Is Trump coming soon?

Special counsel questions Sessions; Is Trump coming soon?

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions was questioned for hours in the special counsel’s Russia investigation, the Justice Department said Tuesday, as prosecutors moved closer to a possible interview with President Donald Trump about whether he ...
Updated: 4 hours ago