WASTE WATCH: Tax dollars and tourism

Updated: Thursday, January 16 2014, 06:39 PM CST
WASTE WATCH:  Tax dollars and tourism story image
Tax dollars and tourism. It's a hot-button issue for Escambia County in recent years.
Tourism is booming again, and the county has some extra money to spend.
Last year, the county pulled in more bed tax dollars than were projected. That means there is a surplus to be divvied up this year.
Thursday night, county commissioners will vote on the best use for those funds.

The county commission is a key player in pushing tourism, and they have almost three million dollars in carry over tourist tax dollars to use.
$2,800,000 more than expected came in from the county bed tax.
The commission is proposing to keep $250,000 for the board to use at their discretion.
Putting $300,000 into reserve.
And giving almost $575,000 to Arts, Sculpture and Entertainment, a local group planning to put on a ten-day festival during the tourist shoulder season.

"There is a huge opportunity during that slower seasons for us to bring in these tourists. And cultural tourists have been proven to stay longer, spend more money per visit than all other types of tourists," says David Bear, A.S.E. President.

"If we can help them in any way to help draw more of those visitors here, especially by an event they are creating during the down season. Then that's something that helps drive more of an economic impact using tourism," says Steve Hayes with Visit Pensacola.

The rest of the surplus, more than $1,700,000 will go to Visit Pensacola, to promote local tourism on a national level.
If the formula keeps working - spending money to make more money - the county could see a surplus again next year.
The one catch in the proposal could be the quarter million dollars set aside for the board.
At least one commissioner sees it as a potential pitfall.

"I don't want to see decisions made politically, but rather decisions that are made on merit. And I believe the organizations that we task do address merit. But at the end of the day, it's going to be whatever the majority of the board decides," says District 4 Commissioner Grover Robinson.

The board will vote on the proposal at Thursday night's regular meeting.
That takes place at 5:30 in the County Governmental Center. The public is invited to attend.
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WASTE WATCH: Tax dollars and tourism
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