Thursday, June 21, 2018
News Roundup

Pasco commissioners considering tourist tax hike

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
WTR Pool and Grille brings ‘fun dining’ pool party scene to Tampa

WTR Pool and Grille brings ‘fun dining’ pool party scene to Tampa

Mike Piper has traveled to Las Vegas and Miami and enjoyed the fun, daytime, party pool scene that the two cities have to offer.Now he aims to bring that same atmosphere to Tampa with a new dining and hang out spot. WTR Pool & Grill opened on Sunday ...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
Grace Family Church gives thrift stores an upgrade in South Tampa

Grace Family Church gives thrift stores an upgrade in South Tampa

A new resale store has made its way to South Tampa. Grace Family Church recently opened Vintage Etc., to provide affordable, quality merchandise to the community and continue its outreach to help families in need in a loving Christian environment. "W...
Updated: 22 minutes ago
2.4 million Floridians expected to travel for Fourth of July

2.4 million Floridians expected to travel for Fourth of July

Summer has officially started and so have summer travel plans. About 2.4 million Floridians are expected to travel for the Fourth of July holiday weekend, up 6.3 percent from last year, according to AAA, The Auto Club Group."We are already seeing a b...
Updated: 28 minutes ago
Taylor Morrison builds in Wesley Chapel

Taylor Morrison builds in Wesley Chapel

Taylor Morrison will build a new subdivision off of Boyette Road between Wesley Chapel Boulevard and Overpass Road.The builder and developer recently broke ground on Chapel Chase, set on approximately 40 acres just north of New Tampa in Pasco County....
Updated: 1 hour ago
Armature Works developers sue Ulele and city of Tampa over use of nearby building

Armature Works developers sue Ulele and city of Tampa over use of nearby building

TAMPA — Two of the city’s hottest developers — the groups behind Ulele and the Armature Works — are heading to court over an old city building that sits between the hit eateries.Both want to redevelop the city’s former office of cable communications ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Top 5 at noon: Is Chronister the right man at the right time?; Luke Bryan chats ahead of his Tampa show; and more

Top 5 at noon: Is Chronister the right man at the right time?; Luke Bryan chats ahead of his Tampa show; and more

Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com.NEW SHERIFF WON OVER THOSE IN POWER. THE VOTERS? THEY DON’T GET A SAYRepublican Chad Chronister was appointed Hillsborough’s top cop after 26 years with the office. Is he the right man at the ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Grain and Berry Cafe to bring its healthy menu to USF area

Grain and Berry Cafe to bring its healthy menu to USF area

Grain & Berry Cafe opened in Palm Harbor, and now the healthy eatery is rapidly expanding throughout the Tampa Bay area.The healthy eatery opened a new location on E Fowler Ave near the University of South Florida in May, just 10 months after opening...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Weeki Wachee man arrested after search warrant turns up drugs, thousands of vape cartridges

Weeki Wachee man arrested after search warrant turns up drugs, thousands of vape cartridges

A Weeki Wachee man faces drug charges after deputies said a search of his home Wednesday turned up nearly three pounds of marijuana, more than three pounds of hashish wax and more than 3,000 hashish oil cartridges for vape pens.Devin Alexander Volkes...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rick Stroud weighs in on report about possible Jameis Winston suspension

Rick Stroud weighs in on report about possible Jameis Winston suspension

Tampa Bay Times beat reporter Rick Stroud isn't buying an ESPN radio report that any suspension levied against Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston by the NFL would stem from Winston's failure to report an alleged incident between him and a female Ub...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

ST. PETERSBURG — Missing all of 2017 might have been the absolute worst thing for Matt Duffy.Frustratingly idled as he eventually recovered and rehabbed from ongoing left heel issues, he couldn't play the game he loved, couldn't show the Rays o...
Updated: 1 hour ago