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  1. Business

Hillsborough sets tourist tax record while Pinellas nears new record

TAMPA — Tourism officials knew last month that Hillsborough County would set a bed tax collection record in fiscal year 2014. The fiscal year ended in September, and now the record is official.

Hillsborough County collected $23.7 million in tourist development taxes, according to tourism agency Visit Tampa Bay. That is the best year ever for tourist bed tax collections.

The tourist tax is a 5 percent surcharge levied on every hotel room and short-term rental in the county. The tax is considered a reliable indicator of the county's tourism market because it tracks the volume of accommodations booked in the county.

The new record is 12 percent more than the $21.1 million the county collected in fiscal 2013. It is also 9 percent more than the previous record, the $21.8 million raised in 2007.

The county finished 2014 strong, collecting $2.3 million in August, a 54 percent jump from the $1.5 million in August 2013. September brought in $1.8 million, a 28 percent improvement from the $1.4 million collected in September 2013.

The county also enjoyed the biggest single month of tourist tax collections ever, accruing $3 million in April.

Hillsborough's tourist development taxes are used to fund the county's tourism marketing agency and also supports institutions such as the Tampa Convention Center, Lowry Park Zoo and other venues.

In Pinellas County, tourism officials reported that they're also on the verge of another tourist tax record. Pinellas collected $33.1 million in bed taxes in the first 11 months of fiscal year 2014, according to tourism agency Visit St. Pete/Clearwater. That's already better than the record $31 million the county garnered in the full fiscal year of 2013.

Pinellas collected $2.5 million this past August, up 16 percent from the $2.1 million netted in August 2013. Pinellas is not only headed to a record with only September yet to be counted, but the county could break $35 million for the first time in its history.

In Pinellas, bed taxes fund beach restoration, infrastructure projects and tourism promotion.

Contact Jamal Thalji at thalji@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3404. Follow @jthalji.

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