As lodging tax revenues continue to grow, so too has been help extended to non-profit organizations as well as dollars devoted to tourism-related infrastructure.
At the Sept. 6 county commission meeting, John Solomon, director of the Tourist Development Council, reported June collections were $569,447, the highest amount ever collected in one month.
This was about $242,000 more than in June 2021, the large increase in part to the lodging tax having gone from 2 to 3 percent in July 2021.
But even if the 2 percent rate had been in effect in June 2022, the revenues still would have come in ahead of a year ago, although not to the same extent. In May collections were about $352,000, a good $75,000 more than in 2021, and in April revenue came in at about $281,000, $100,000 more than the year before.
At the current clip, the TDC will bring in well above last year’s annual fiscal year collections of $2.46 million, and will likely eclipse $3 million for the first time since the tax on short-term rentals was instituted in 2005.
Solomon said the TDC board, at its Aug. 24 meeting, started the creation of a three-year project worksheet that lists projects it may like to see accomplished or started within the next few years.
“This is a living document; nothing is set in stone,” he told commissioners. “Things can be added or deleted at any time as most of these, if not all, must be approved by the county commission before becoming a reality. The commission is also part of the document and any project ideas that can be funded by the TDC that are allowed by the state statute can be added to this list.”
Solomon also reported the TDC board approved replacing all the county entrance signs; awarding the Crooked River Lighthouse Museum $20,620 from the Museum Grants Projects fund to construct fencing around the property and replace the air conditioning; and recommending $23,380 to complete the Fort Coombs Armory sprinkler system and painting project. All were approved by the county commission.
The commissioners last week also OKd a TDC recommendation to fund $174,000 in promotion grants to 25 nonprofit groups which plan to use the marketing money to host events, festivals, and fund museum-related activities throughout the county over the next year. “Every nonprofit group that made an application will be receiving funding this year,” said Solomon. The three grant categories are event promotion, major events, and museum grants.
Promotion grants of $2,000 each were awarded to 15 area non-profit groups that plan to host upwards of 50 individual events beginning this fall, including festivals, parades, tours, dinners, music and theater events, and topic-based talks and presentations. (See infobox)
Four major event promotion grants of $5,000 were awarded to the annual St. George Island Regional Charity Chili Cook-off, hosted by the SGI Volunteer Fire Department; the the Butts & Clucks Cook-off run by the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce; the annual Plein Air Paint-out, overseen by the Franklin County Cultural Coalition; and the annual African American History Festival, managed by HCOLA (Hillside Coalition of Laborers for Apalachicola).
Six museums throughout the county will benefit from TDC funding, with each receiving $15,000 to continue daily operations this coming year. Those funded include the St. George Island Lighthouse Association, Camp Gordon Johnston World War II Museum, Raney House Museum, North Florida African American Corridor Project, Carrabelle History Museum, and the Crooked River Lighthouse Museum.
Over the past several months, TDC funds have also repaired Hurricane Michael damage to Apalachicola’s Lafayette Pier, replaced damaged signage throughout the county and funded beach dune walkovers at Carrabelle Beach and St. George Island.
In 2021, the TDC helped fund $426,000 to replace bathroom facilities at the public beach on St. George Island.
“Our lodging tax revenues continue to be beneficial for many of our local nonprofit groups,” said Commission Chairman Ricky Jones. “These groups host events or operate historically relevant facilities in Franklin County.”