The Sarasota County Commission voted unanimously to approve the allocation of part of the tourist development tax to increase funding for capital projects and events.
The capital projects and events category include physical assets or specific events that bring in tourists and visitors to Sarasota. The YMCA aquatic center at Selby and the 17th Street BMX bike race are a project and event included in this category.
“We need to have other assets,” Commissioner Joe Barbetta said at today’s meeting. “We rely on our beaches and our culture, but we need other assets to draw people in.”
The commissioners debated between reallocating 10% or only 7.5%.
Commissioner Christine Robinson said the best option was to start with the lower amount and monitor what happened, to see if there was a return on that investment of 7.5% into the capital projects.
The tourist development tax has a 5-cent levy allocation. Before today, 17.5% of the third penny was allocated to promotions. Under today’s vote, 7.5% will be reallocated from promotions to capital projects and events, leaving promotions with 10% and raising the capital funding to 20%.
Also approved 4-1 was the transfer of any excess funds, after debt service and capital repairs and improvements, from the levy allocation of the sports stadium (25% of the first and second penny) to be applied to go to promotions.
Another third-penny item:
The commission was asked to consider the budget and business plan for Visit Sarasota. The budget and plan will be presented again in September for approval.
The organization prepared two budgets for consideration: one for if they received no funding from the third penny levy and one for if they received funding from the 10% allocation in the third penny levy. Although the commission ultimately approved the reallocation of 7.5% instead, either budget the organization prepared would be $1 million less than that of 2014.
Visit Sarasota plans to open a kiosk-like information point in University Town Center, with street signage to direct tourists to find the information center inside of the mall. Their headquarters will be changing as well, as the lease on their current headquarters at 701 North Tamiami Trail ends in December. President Virginia Haley said they were finalizing negotiations on the downtown space and hoped have news about the location this week. She said a space downtown will make the visitors services center more accessible to tourists and guests of hotels downtown.
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