Of the more than $200,000 Sarasota County and the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau requested in reimbursement funds from oil giant BP, only Sarasota County received a small portion of its request — about 8%.
BP wired the county $18,821 last week. That was the exact amount the county requested to reimburse employee time and equipment. Those employees were preparing mitigation efforts in the event oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill reached our shores.
The oil, of course, never surfaced on county beaches. That fact, nonetheless, did not reach many potential visitors, especially Europeans, who feared the oil would ruin a vacation in Sarasota County.
In June, county government submitted a claim for $126,952, which included the employee time and equipment request, as well as a reimbursement of $100,000 tourist-development tax dollars used to promote county tourism.
BP has not yet decided whether to reimburse that tourist-tax money.
“We’re hoping to still recoup it,” said Carol Adler, a county operations supervisor, who said a decision could come before the end of the year.
The oil company has denied one large request, however. The Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau put in a claim for $100,000 to pay for a fall and winter marketing campaign.
County Commissioner Jon Thaxton hoped to recoup more money.
“It’s slightly disappointing but not unexpected,” he said. “I was questioning the sales-tax and gas-tax revenue loss.”
Because some tourists are believed to have avoided Sarasota County because of the fear of oil-stained beaches, fewer tax dollars may have been collected.
“That’s where we took the biggest hit,” said Thaxton. “The losses came at hotels, restaurants and the gas pump, because people simply weren’t here.”
The commissioner said he’s beginning to fear that the county won’t see any of that money, because even if BP does reimburse lost tax dollars, the money would first go to the state. And there’s no guarantee the state would share it with the county.
Contact Robin Roy at firstname.lastname@example.org.