Citrus County makes investment in tourism

The Citrus County Commission has raised the county’s 3 percent Tourism Development Tax (TDT) to 5 percent
The Citrus County Commission has raised the county’s 3 percent Tourism Development Tax (TDT) to 5 percent

By Cynthia Oswald,
BOCC Public Information Officer

The Citrus County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) made a big investment in tourism this week.

Commissioners voted on Tuesday to raise the county’s current 3 percent Tourism Development Tax (TDT) to 5 percent.

The increase provides additional opportunities for the Citrus County Visitors and Convention Bureau to market the quickly growing Florida destination to domestic and international travelers.

“The Commissioner’s decision makes a significant investment in our local economy without increasing the tax burden on local residents,” said Adam Thomas, Director of the Citrus County Visitors and Convention Bureau.

The TDT, also known as a “bed tax” or Transient Occupancy Tax is collected when visitors stay at Hotels, RV Parks, Vacation Rentals and B&B’s. Most Visitors and Convention Bureau’s in Florida are funded by this method.

“This addition of two cents will provide us with a $600 thousand increase in annual revenue,” outgoing Tourism Development Council member Frank Peters told the Commissioners. “It will bolster our marketing program and put us on a more level playing field with surrounding competitors.”

The move was important in Citrus County where one of every eight workers is employed in tourism or tourism related fields. It comes as the destination, which markets itself as Discover Crystal River Florida, experiences record growth in visitors (450,000 in 2016) and other key performance indicators.

“Since 2014, Citrus County Visitor spending has increased by $444 million, generating directly and indirectly 4,000 tourism related jobs,” said Thomas. “In that period tourism has had a $590 million economic impact on the community, generating $11.7 million in local sales tax revenue,” he added. “The industry drives economic growth, creates jobs and generates much needed tax revenue for local communities that save each Citrus County resident household $193 in taxes each year.”

The TDT increase came in two separate votes, a unanimous vote for a fourth percentile dedicated to increasing the Citrus County Visitors and Conventions Bureau’s budget, and a 4 to 1 vote on a fifth percentile. That revenue will be set aside for future Capital Projects or further marketing initiatives. In either case, the funds can only be spent by a direct vote of the BOCC.

“I think this helps us compete with other counties,” said Chairman Scott Carnahan. “I feel the Tourism Development Council is equipped to bring us projects when it is needed and it will be up to this board to decide how to use the money.”

“We’ll have this money building where it is not a burden on our citizens,” said Commissioner Brian Coleman. “If we have a project come up in the future, I don’t want our citizens to be expected to pay for it. I want to use these funds.”

Accountability is built in, contended Commissioner Jeff Kinnard. “If the voters of Citrus County don’t like the way the Commission is spending that money, they will make a change at the ballot box.”

This also means there will be no further Tourism Development Tax increases since State law sets the maximum levee at 5 percent in relation to Citrus County.