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OCS seeks funding from Tourist Development Council to subsidize summer deputies
Okaloosa County's Sheriff says tourists drive up the demand for law enforcement, so they should be paying some of the cost. He's asking the Tourist Development Council for three-hundred- fifty thousand dollars in bed tax money, to subsidize summer deputies.
Laura Hussey "Florida has some pretty narrow rules about how you can spend bed tax dollars. It's all about promoting the area, getting lots of tourists onto these beaches and into those condos"
They come to have a good time, but anywhere you go, people have problems. The Sheriff's Office says during peak tourist periods, calls for service go up eleven-hundred percent in some categories.
This graph shows the difference in DUI calls....the blue line is off-season, the red line is tourist season. This graph shows the increase in calls about sexual battery.
Sheriff Larry Ashley "It seems kind of unfair to ask citizens to pony up more ad valorem taxes because you have a large population that's coming to your area, and that large population is not contributing to the services that they receive"
The Sheriff is asking for three-hundred fifty thousand bed tax dollars, to subsidize salaries and equipment for four beach patrol deputies and two marine patrol deputies during the summer months.
Jamon/tourist from Atlanta "If it's going to help promote the safety on the beach, I think it's going to be a good idea"
But is it an authorized use of bed taxes? An attorney general's opinion from 1990 says those dollars may not be used to fund regular police protection. The Sheriff says the law has changed, citing several opinions giving counties the authority to decide for themselves. He says it's already being done in Bay and Dade counties.
Hope Blankenship is an Okaloosa County taxpayer.
Hope Blankenship/FWB "I think the beaches are one of the main things our tourists come here for, that's what we draw the money for, I think the beaches need to be kept safe and I think that would be a great way, a great outlet to use our Sheriff's Department"
Laura Hussey "Sheriff Ashley will make his pitch to the TDC Thursday afternoon."