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Will a bed tax increase for Santa Rosa County be collected fairly?

When you rent a hotel room or vacation property in Santa Rosa County you pay a four percent bed tax. The money is used primarily to market the area, and bring more tourists in.

Commissioners Thursday delayed a vote on raising that tax to 5 percent. The extra penny per dollar is, or was, designed to be a dedicated source of funding for renourishment of Navarre Beach.

But some realtors say the tax now is not being collected fairly. And they want the county commission to come up with a plan to even the playing field.

Sun, white sand, and emerald green waters. That's what makes northwest Florida one of the nation's top vacation destinations. But when private condo or home owners rent out their properties they usually do not collect or pay the bed tax. Trouble is figuring out who those private renters are and charging them is nearly impossible.

Jay thorton and his family say Navarre beach is one of their favorite destination spots. They are from Hayeden Alabama, so they always stay in a hotel on the beach.

Jay Thornton said, "It's more family oriented not quite as busy as some of the other places and is convenient to still go do things."

Anytime someone rents a room at a hotel or condo there is a 4 cent bed tax charged. But one local realtor says that tax is not always being paid by people who rent out rooms or condos.

Ira May Bruce owns Century 21 in Navarre. She says her company rents out condos and rooms on the beach and pay hundreds of dollars in taxes each year. But some condo owners are flying under the radar. They own the condos, rent them to tourists, but never pay the bed taxes that go towards promoting the area.

Ira Mae Bruce, "Many of those people don't pay sales or bed taxes and there is not any way for the county to find out who they are because of the laws in the state of Florida."

Navarre Beach competes with many miles of other beaches in the area so advertising is key.

Jay says he heard about the beach through word of mouth and Navarre beach should advertise more. "It doesn't really get publicized up where I'm at."

Ira Mae also says the beach is in need of renouishment and a separate bed tax should be placed on the beach to pay for the project.

The last time the beach was renourished was in 2006 the next beach renourishment project could cost tax payers over 10-million dollars.

"Last time the beach owners paid more and the people across the street paid an amount that made it work and hopefully we get grants from the state that will help."

Commissioners have decided to wait to make any decisions on bed taxes and property taxes

They say there are still to many unanswered questions.
The topic could come up at the next commission meeting in two weeks.