By DOTTY NIST
South Walton Tourist Development Council (TDC) members have approved a proposed budget of slightly less than $12.7 million for fiscal year 2012-13, along with a strategic plan and a $1-plus-million media plan for the new fiscal year.
The action took place at the TDC’s April 17 special meeting in the TDC conference room.
TDC Executive Director Dawn Moliterno told the council members that the budget was due the first week in May so that it could undergo the budget scrub process with the county.
The proposed TDC budget represents approximately a $1.9 million increase over the tourism council’s final budget for the current fiscal year.
The TDC is supported by a tax of 4 1/2 cents per dollar collected on rentals of short-term accommodations in south Walton County. This is known as the tourist tax or bed tax.
In the new fiscal year, the TDC is proposing to spend approximately $2 million on administration, including $1.4 million for salaries; $2.5 million on marketing expenses; $1.4 million on new product development expenses; $1.5 million on Autumn Tides shoulder season promotional expenses; $933,230 on beach maintenance; and $1.4 million on promotions in connection with Southwest Airlines and emerging markets. $2.9 million is proposed to be budgeted for beach nourishment expenses and beach nourishment reserves.
The proposed budget includes $85,000 to add a new lifeguard and lifeguard station in Miramar Beach.
Among changes to the budget for the new fiscal year will be more advertising during the “shoulder season”—the time between Labor Day and Memorial Day—in the interest of a more steady tourism economy throughout the year. During the summer, due to high demand for accommodations and the loyalty of repeat visitors to south Walton County, it is possible for the TDC to cut back on advertising.
Among TDC strategic plan goals for 2012-13 are increasing brand awareness both inside and outside the market and retaining and growing visitation from both emerging and core markets.
Among beach maintenance objectives are updating public facilities and interacting with visitors to make them aware of beach ordinances.
Among beach nourishment objectives will be oversight and assistance with the preliminary engineering and design phase for Walton County’s second large-scale beach restoration project, along with lobbying for state and federal dollars for the project and work with state and federal agencies toward future restoration of the beaches along CR-30A.
Among visitor experience/customer service objectives is the transition into a new building, a Discovery Center, to welcome travelers. The center has been proposed for Point Washington State Forest property directly south of the U.S. 331/U.S. 98 intersection and would also house TDC administrative and staff offices. Plans are for the $4.5-plus-million facility to be funded from TDC reserves.
This proposal has encountered opposition from residents, mainly because it woud be located on state conservation land. More discussion with the public and with a Florida Forest Service representative on the proposal is planned for the May 8 Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) meeting.
Since the TDC is an advisory board to the BCC, the strategic plan, media plan and budget were scheduled for consideration by the county commissioners at their next meeting on April 24.
The budget, strategic plan and media plan are posted on the TDC Partners web site, www.visitsouthwalton.org/agendas-minutes, just below the heading “TDC Advisory Council Special Meeting April 17th, 2012 at 9 a.m. located at the TDC building.”