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Tourism boom boosts lodging tax by $1M

What’s Franklin County going to do after scoring an additional $1 million in lodging tax monies?

They’re not going to Disney World, that’s for sure. They’ll be spending it on infrastructure here at home.

In a report that summed up the entire collections for the 2020-21 fiscal year, the Franklin County Tourist Development Council said Tuesday morning that total collections netted $2.46 million, a 71.7 percent increase over the previous year.

This amounted to $1.03 million more than was brought in in 2019-20, when the 2 percent lodging tax receipts were $1.43 million. The two previous years saw increases of 7.4 percent and 2.1 percent.

“These increases all happened even when faced with Hurricane Michael aftermath and a worldwide pandemic,” TDC Director John Solomon said. “I’m pleased with the results and I am proud to be part of a team that loves our community. It shows in a job very well done.”

Part of the giant increase over last year was due to a boost in the tax rate on short-term lodging from 2 to 3 percent begun in July.

While that hike bumped up collection numbers by more than 30 percent during the last quarter of the fiscal year, it alone did not account for the record total. Solomon said that without that additional 1 percentage point increase, the county still would have taken in $2.12 million, which would have been a 47.7 percent increase over the prior year.

The year closed out with a take of $164,000 in September, a record for that month, and about 17 percent more than came in in Sept. 2020.

“I could not be more pleased,” said Solomon.  “This has been a collaborative effort between the county commission, TDC board members, TDC vendors, lodging providers and hospitality workers.”

“The extra revenue generated this year means we are able to accomplish many important infrastructure improvements that were otherwise unaffordable for our small coastal communities,” he said.

Solomon said nearly the entire additional $1 million will be going to fund infrastructure. This breaks down to $600,000 originally budgeted, plus an additional $100,000 for museum projects, and $200,000 for beach park improvements to address restrooms and accessibility issues.

The parking lot for the Camp Gordon Johnston World War II has already secured $20,000 for paving, and two more applications from other facilities currently in the hopper. A museum has a ceiling of $25,000 it can be allocated during a given fiscal year.

The TDC recently unveiled its latest marketing endeavor recently – a six-part video series of “How to Forgotten Coast Like a Local.” The series launched on Dec. 17, with the next episode to air Jan. 7. New episodes will air every Friday. The series is narrated by colorful Capt. Finn, voiced by Forgotten Coast TV’s Royce Rolstad, as he conducts a lighthearted tour of many sights on the Forgotten Coast. 

Episodes can be viewed on the TDC’s Facebook page as well as the Forgotten Coast YouTube channel.

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