Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Boost bed tax to draw more tourists, jobs

RECOMMENDED READING


Two months ago, the Hernando County Commission killed a recommended cost-savings plan to consolidate its two visitor centers into one location in Weeki Wachee. Instead, commissioners now face the prospect of increasing the county's tourist tax to keep the doors open on the east side center welcoming travelers from Interstate 75 and to better finance Hernando's tourism promotion. It's a wise investment and commissioners should increase the so-called bed tax.

Hernando has charged a 3 percent tax on overnight accommodations since 1998. The tax produced $370,000 last year and early returns showed revenue up 5 percent in the first quarter of 2014. Even with the added dollars, the county faces increasing costs as it expands tourism promotional efforts into social media, tries to grab a larger share of the international market, and boosts its advertising for fishing and bird-watching offerings to capitalize on nature-based tourism.

The county's Tourist Development Council (TDC) recommended increasing the tax to 5 percent, with each additional penny-on-the-dollar tax projected to raise up to $130,000 annually. A quirky state law allows the first 1 percent increase to be approved with a simple majority vote of the commission, but requires a four-fifths majority vote to add the second 1 percent. Adding the second 1 percent would allow the TDC to reinstitute fully its grant program to help underwrite the cost of promoting local events and festivals.

Most importantly, though, the extra money will help keep the east side welcome center open. The TDC recommended in May to let the lease expire, but a public outcry from business leaders, landowners and former TDC members, swayed the commission to seek alternatives. The increased tax rate — paid by visitors, not local residents — is a reasonable alternative.

The investment in tourism is worthwhile because of its job creation opportunities. A 2013 Florida TaxWatch report noted jobs created by Florida's tourism industry were second only to the health care/social assistance sector since the U.S. recession ended. Though the jobs tend to be low-wage, averaging $28,100, according to 2012 data, the sheer volume of jobs produces $27 billion worth of disposal income among tourism employees, according to TaxWatch. In Hernando County, tourism-related jobs numbered 5,000 before the recession, but that figure has since dropped to 3,000, said Hernando's tourism coordinator Tammy Heon.

With a $3 million state grant for a proposed nature-based tourism project at Weekiwachee Preserve, planned improvements at the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park and a deeper channel at Hernando Beach providing safer boating opportunities, the county is well-positioned to increase its eco-tourism offerings. Failing to spend the money to promote those opportunities sufficiently would be short-sighted and counter-productive to the commission's focus on adding jobs within the county.

Comments
Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

In a state with the nation’s highest portion of residents over 65 years old and more than 80,000 nursing home beds, public records about those facilities should be as accessible as possible. Yet once again, Florida is turning back the clock to the da...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Another voice: A time of reckoning on sexual misconduct

Stories about powerful men engaging in sexual misconduct are becoming so common that, as with mass shootings, the country is in danger of growing inured to them. But unlike the tragic news about that latest deranged, murderous gunman, the massive out...
Published: 11/20/17

Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "I’m pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise — for every...
Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

A federal trial began last week in the sex discrimination case that a former firefighter lodged against the city of Tampa. Tanja Vidovic describes a locker-room culture at Tampa Fire Rescue that created a two-tier system — one for men, another for wo...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Kriseman’s own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

The University of South Florida recently surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal, continuing a current trend of exceeding expectations. At 61 years old — barely middle age among higher education institutions — USF has grown up quickly. It now boast...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

American military members hurt in service to their country should not have to wait a lifetime for the benefits they deserve. But that’s a reality of the disability process at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which hasn’t made payi...
Published: 11/14/17