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Proposal to increase Hernando County bed tax dies

BROOKSVILLE — The idea to add a penny to Hernando's so-called bed tax to help bolster parks has been laid to rest before the County Commission even got to consider it.

The revenue from another penny on the county's current 3 percent tax on hotel bills would come under such rigid stipulations that there's no point in recommending the increase to the commission, director Sue Rupe told the Tourist Development Council on Friday.

"It would not achieve what we would hope to do," Rupe said during a special meeting Friday in Brooksville.

As the county mulls a roughly $10.3 million budget shortfall and considers closing the recreational jewels that help attract tourists, tourism officials wondered if the extra penny on the bed tax might be a way to bring in more money to help keep up parks.

The 3-cent bed tax brings in about $300,000 and funds the council's entire budget, Rupe said. Another cent would garner roughly $100,000 more, but those additional dollars by law could be used for only a handful of specific projects, such as building a convention center or conference center, or marketing and promoting events to draw tourists to the state, Rupe said.

The council agreed to consider helping in another way, though.

The group had already set aside $30,000 to help reimburse the county and the city of Brooksville for expenses related to holding sports events such as softball tournaments at local fields. That figure could now climb to $50,000, and Rupe agreed to bring back a proposal for a formal vote.

The council has a sports marketing committee working to attract events such as softball championships to Hernando fields, and improvements and maintenance done to parks in advance of those events are legitimate uses of bed tax dollars, Rupe said. The council had already agreed to give the county $100,000 to maintain specific parks including Rogers Park in Weeki Wachee and Pine Island, and $20,000 to the city of Brooksville for Tom Varn Park.

Not every council member agreed with that move. Jan Knowles was not present at the previous meeting and said she likely would not have supported sending dollars to promote tourism to the parks department.

"I wasn't very happy when I heard about it," Knowles said.

That's likely the extent of the council's ability to help at this point, and the assistance won't necessarily be an annual occurrence, council members agreed.

"I think we've stepped up to the plate," council member Richard Lewis said.

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@sptimes.com.

Proposal to increase Hernando County bed tax dies 07/02/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 2, 2010 8:07pm]
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