By DOTTY NIST
The county commission will soon be taking up a decision on whether to add a new bed tax “penny” to the four pennies that are currently collected on each dollar spent on rental of short-term accommodations south of the bay.
While the new penny has been under discussion since fall 2018, the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) voted on April 23 at the Walton County Courthouse to formally schedule a public hearing on the matter for the following month.
Known as the High Tourism Impact County Optional Tax, the new penny may be enacted by counties qualifying as high tourism impact counties based on conditions set forth by the state Department of Revenue (DOR).
After a recommendation by the Walton County Tourist Development Council (TDC) and a decision by the BCC to verify Walton County’s eligibility to collect the new tax, Jay Tusa, TDC executive director had been tasked with contacting DOR on the matter.
On April 9, Tusa reported to the BCC that DOR had verified the use of the High Tourism Impact Tax in Walton County.
Asked at that time whether proceeds the new tax would be used for infrastructure or marketing, Tusa indicated that the funds could be used for either—but that previous discussions had been that they would be used for infrastructure, and in particular for property purchases for beach access and beach parking and related infrastructure improvements. Discussions have also indicated that, if approved, the new tax would go into effect next year.
Tusa confirmed that the state requires 40 percent of the TDC budget to be used for marketing.
He also confirmed the requirement for the tax to be put in place, which would consist of a super majority vote of the BCC in favor.
The BCC has set a vote on the new tax for May 14 at 4 p.m. or as soon as possible after 4 p.m. at the South Walton Annex. This is in conjunction with the BCC regular meeting on that date.