Thursday, November 23, 2017
News Roundup

Pasco commissioners considering tourist tax hike

RECOMMENDED READING


NEW PORT RICHEY — A majority of county commissioners said Wednesday they are open to increasing Pasco's 2 percent tourist tax, the lowest levy in the Tampa Bay area.

Commissioner Henry Wilson floated the idea of doubling the tax rate to 4 percent on overnight stays at Pasco hotels, resorts and other short-term lodgings. Part of the money sponsors events such as the Dick's Sporting Goods national lacrosse tournament, which was held over the New Year's weekend in Wesley Chapel.

"We can't do much more (event sponsorship) with just 2 percent," Wilson said during a workshop focused in part on enhancing Pasco's quality of life.

He got quick agreement from Commissioners Pat Mulieri and Kathryn Starkey.

"If we want to be the premier county, it's going to come at a bit of a cost," Starkey said.

After the spontaneous support for the tax proposal, the normally unflappable tourism director Eric Keaton raised his arms in the universal signal for "touchdown."

County Administrator John Gallagher asked whether to "strike while the iron is hot" and schedule the two-penny increase for the next commission meeting in two weeks. But commissioners decided to discuss the possible tax increase alongside the yearly tourism report at a workshop in February.

It would require a supermajority — at least four of the five commissioners — to approve the tax increase. The money must be spent on advertising, events or amenities that draw tourists to Pasco County.

Commissioner Ted Schrader said he is "not sold" on raising the tourist tax. Commissioner Jack Mariano opposed a penny increase in 2010 but said he is open to the idea if officials change how the money is spent. He wants to limit funding for local events and add flexibility to make improvements at facilities, such as adding fields at the Wesley Chapel District Park or building a boardwalk at the future SunWest park in Aripeka.

"I just didn't want to throw more money after a bad plan," he said.

Last year, the county collected $822,000 in tourist taxes. About $170,000 was spent on local cultural events and sporting events that bring out-of-county visitors. That's up from a total of $20,000 for two events in 2007.

A portion of the money also goes toward building a future tourism destination. Since the tax took effect 20 years ago, Pasco has collected $14 million in construction money that is now earmarked for a multi-field sports complex in Wesley Chapel.

Keaton praised the renewed interest in boosting the tourism tax. With the extra revenue, he said, the county could sponsor more events like the national lacrosse tournament that many families used as a vacation. The event filled Saddlebrook Resort and other hotels in the area.

"It comes down to quality events," he said. "Just ask Wesley Chapel small businesses and the Shops at Wiregrass how they did during the Dick's Tournament of Champions."

Keaton will present detailed plans for the upcoming year at a Tourist Development Council meeting next Wednesday. Then he will take the plan to commissioners.

Pasco's hotel tax levy is the lowest in the region. Hernando and Citrus counties both charge 3 percent. Hillsborough and Pinellas are each at 5 percent, though their taxes help pay for major sports stadiums such as Tropicana Field and Raymond James Stadium.

Mulieri was one of the most outspoken supporters of a failed penny increase in 2010.

"If you're going to create a community, you need to create places," she said. "Tourism and arts are a big part of that. (The tax) doesn't affect our people. It affects people coming in."

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

Comments
Nikita Kucherov really does admire Patrick Kane

Nikita Kucherov really does admire Patrick Kane

TAMPA — Lightning wing Nikita Kucherov has watched plenty of film on Blackhawks star Patrick Kane.Kucherov marveled how the 2015-16 league MVP uses deception to "hide" from defenders. He noticed how patient Kane was with the puck, how well he passed ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Lightning beats Blackhawks in OT

Lightning beats Blackhawks in OT

TAMPA — The Lightning entered Wednesday’s game against the Blackhawks determined to avoid its first losing streak of the season. And it did in dramatic fashion, with Brayden Point’s power-play goal in overtime lifting it to a 3-2 victory. "A big boun...
Updated: 7 hours ago
SOCom asking rifle makers for single weapon to serve many sniper roles

SOCom asking rifle makers for single weapon to serve many sniper roles

When Ryan Cleckner was an Army Ranger sniper in Afghanistan, he had as many as nine rifles he would use in different situations. But whenever a mission would evolve quickly, he would have to choose which ones to lug onto a helicopter. Even narrowing ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
As rules change, many Florida immigrants face a choice: Do they stay or go?

As rules change, many Florida immigrants face a choice: Do they stay or go?

Lys Isma was born in Haiti, but she’s used to driving in Miami with a license, going to college and living without fear of being deported.The Florida International University biology student has lived in Florida since she was 9 months old. Undocument...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Basketball: USF Bulls bounce back with rout of Howard; FSU, Miami win

TAMPA — Three nights after running out of steam in a loss at Indiana, USF had enough to steamroll Howard of the MEAC.A 17-1 run late in the first half helped the Bulls to a 75-52 win Wednesday before an announced Sun Dome crowd of 2,080. USF (3-2) he...
Updated: 9 hours ago
From USF-UCF, to UF-FSU, to Alabama-Auburn, it’s a busy college football Thanksgiving weekend

From USF-UCF, to UF-FSU, to Alabama-Auburn, it’s a busy college football Thanksgiving weekend

 
Updated: 10 hours ago
Bucs journal: Gerald McCoy says team has not turned the corner yet

Bucs journal: Gerald McCoy says team has not turned the corner yet

TAMPA — The Bucs have some positive momentum with back-to-back wins, but DT Gerald McCoy said it’s too soon to say his 4-6 team has turned a corner."We haven’t turned a corner yet," McCoy said Wednesday, preparing for Sunday’s game at Atlanta. "It’s ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Across country, small retailers aim for emotional ties big chains may lack

Across country, small retailers aim for emotional ties big chains may lack

Associated PressSome smaller retailers will tug at shoppers’ heartstrings during the holidays, trying to create an emotional experience or connection that a big national chain might not provide.Store owners are going well beyond the usual holiday dec...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, please go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Wed., Nov. 22, midday:76 001 3688e_SRit36220Wed., Nov. 22, evening:18 535 9156e_SRit57364LottoWed., Nov....
Updated: 10 hours ago

Top Trump staffers failed to file financial reports on their way out the door

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s top aides — including chief of staff Reince Priebus and foreign policy adviser Sebastian Gorka — failed to file legally required financial reports after they were dismissed this summer, according to government re...
Updated: 10 hours ago