Tourists coming to Manatee County to visit, stay and play generated more than $12.4 million in tourist development taxes during the past year.
Jennie Johnson and Michele Schulz from the Manatee County Tax Collector’s office gave the Manatee County Tourist Development Council an update Monday and said the 2015-2016 fiscal year, which just ended, was a “record-breaking year.”
Among the Manatee County municipalities, Holmes Beach led the way with a 24.9 percent increase in collections between this year and last. The lowest growth was in Palmetto, at less than 1 percent. Unincorporated Manatee County saw a 34.6 percent increase.
Schulz also revealed that the tax collector’s office declined to enter a tourist tax agreement with peer-to-peer home-stay vacation rental service Airbnb. During the past year, Schulz said the accommodations service made a push in Florida to reach out to all entities administering tourist taxes. The tax collector’s office staff, after reviewing Airbnb’s proposed contract with an attorney, decided the agreement wouldn’t be worth it.
“According to Airbnb, their estimate was 1.4 million in bookings for Manatee County,” Schulz said. “When we take that and equivocate it to tourist taxes, it’s between $70,000 and $71,000. The total (net) amount collected was $11 million-something, so that’s less than 1 percent of the total amount we’re collecting.”
The Manatee County Tax Collector still collects tourist taxes from Airbnb hosts, but the hosts are responsible for remitting the taxes to the county individually. If the tax collector entered Airbnb’s agreement, the Airbnb company would be responsible for remitting the taxes on behalf of the hosts.
Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Elliott Falcione praised the tax collector’s office for its diligence in collecting tourist taxes, which the Tourist Development Council uses to further enhance and grow Manatee County’s tourism industry.
“When we go around the state for association gatherings, there’s horror stories out there about hospitality industries or short-term rentals not collecting the tax,” Falcione said. “Your county does a great job and they’re probably one of the best in the state.”
Also at Monday’s meeting, the council approved up to $125,000 to help with the Bridge Street Pier repair project in Bradenton Beach.
The Bridge Street Pier was damaged by strong waves during Tropical Storm Colin. The funds will be provided on a reimbursement basis, and the agreement between the TDC and the city of Bradenton Beach will be similar to the agreement entered for the Bradenton Beach City Pier project, Falcione said.
The TDC also approved moving $15,000 from reserves to the beach renourishment line item, after $15,000 was taken out of the beach maintenance funds for cleanup after the recent bout of red tide.
“It’s one thing to have it, and it’s another to have fish on the beach,” restaurateur and TDC member Ed Chiles said. “Congratulations to Charlie (Bishop, Manatee County property management director) and team for getting after it.”