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Brevard resort tax now can be utilized for extra issues below ordinance change – Florida Right this moment

Brevard County commissioners have unanimously authorised adjustments to how the county’s 5% vacationer growth tax can be utilized, probably increasing the chance to make use of income from the tax for all the things from inexpensive housing initiatives to infrastructure tasks to assist the Indian River Lagoon.

The tax is levied on the rental of resort and motel rooms, in addition to on different short-term leases.

Commissioners Tuesday night time voted 4-0 in favor of a proposal by Chair Kristine Zonka to permit the tax for use to “purchase, assemble, prolong, enlarge, rework, restore, enhance, keep, function or finance public amenities throughout the county, if the general public amenities are wanted to extend tourist-related enterprise actions within the county.”

Brevard County Commission Chair Kristine Zonka.

That use already is allowed by state laws spearheaded by Florida Rep. Randy Tremendous, R-Palm Bay. However, till now, Brevard County had not added that provision to its native ordinance to be used of the tax.

“This might simply add that software to the toolbox” to be used of the tax regionally, Brevard County Lawyer Morris Richardson instructed commissioners.

Tremendous, although, contends that inexpensive housing is not one thing that might be coated by the vacationer tax. He mentioned utilizing income from the vacationer growth tax to assist fund housing “could be a grossly unlawful use” of the tax. 

Constitution change helps housing

Zonka has been an advocate for inexpensive housing. One in every of her appointees to the Brevard County Constitution Assessment Fee, Jordin Chandler, launched a proposed change to the county’s constitution to deal with that difficulty.

Beneath the “workforce and supportive housing” constitution change — which Brevard voters authorised within the Nov. 8 election, with 53% assist — an inexpensive housing belief fund was created that will be funded by the sale of surplus lands or by an ordinance handed by the County Fee.

In her agenda report back to different county commissioners associated to the adjustments within the vacationer tax guidelines authorised Tuesday, Zonka wrote:

“The Board of County Commissioners has expressed curiosity in utilizing unallocated vacationer growth tax revenues to assist Brevard County’s tourism and hospitality employees by workforce housing initiatives. The board might fairly conclude {that a} future public amenities venture to supply or assist workforce housing is required to extend tourist-related enterprise actions within the county.”

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Beneath state statute, these circumstances should be met earlier than Brevard County might use the tax for such a function or for different functions that the ordinance modification permits:

  • The venture is really helpful by the Brevard County Vacationer Improvement Council, a nine-member advisory board appointed by county commissioners.
  • The county should accumulate at the very least $10 million in vacationer growth tax income within the earlier price range yr. Brevard County collected a report $23.31 million from the tax within the price range yr that ended Sept. 30. 
  • The County Fee should approve the use for the proposed public amenities by a vote of at the very least two-thirds of its membership. In Brevard, that will be 4 of the 5 commissioners.
  • Not more than 70% of the price of the proposed public amenities will probably be paid for with vacationer growth tax revenues, and sources of funding for the remaining value are recognized and confirmed by the County Fee.
  • No less than 40% of all vacationer growth tax revenues collected within the county are spent to advertise and promote tourism.
  • An impartial skilled evaluation, carried out on the expense of the county Vacationer Improvement Council, demonstrates the optimistic affect of the infrastructure venture on tourist-related companies within the county.

Chandler mentioned that, since he first proposed his inexpensive housing constitution modification in Could, “I knew what challenges we had been confronted with, and what it will take to shift folks’s minds and hearts, and alter the stigma related to inexpensive housing.”

Jordin Chandler, a member of the Brevard County Charter Review Commission.

“I assume the outcomes spoke volumes, however I’m cognizant that there’s nonetheless far more work to be finished,” Chandler mentioned, in discussing voter approval of the constitution modification. “I’m grateful to each particular person who solid a vote on this modification, whether or not for or in opposition to this poll initiative, as a result of it exhibits that you simply had been engaged within the course of, and that’s all that I might have requested for. I intend to see this course of by till the very finish, as a result of I need to be certain that we’re leaving no stone unturned to make sure that this belief fund actually works for the residents of Brevard.”

‘Slightly extra flexibility’

Zonka mentioned the vacationer growth plan replace to the county code that commissioners authorised Tuesday doesn’t particularly allocate cash to any new venture, however does “give us a bit extra flexibility sooner or later.”

“We labored onerous to provide you with a plan that will maintain us throughout the regulation and permit us to at the very least broaden the opportunity of use” of the vacationer growth tax “for different alternatives,” Zonka mentioned. “This does not categorize something. This does not essentially commit something.”

However, Zonka added, it does permit the Vacationer Improvement Council to make suggestions that may come again to the County Fee, “and we will make a bit bit modifications to the plan to deal with another points that affect our tourism trade.”

Tremendous, nonetheless, was not completely happy that his state laws now’s being tied to the potential to be used of the vacationer growth tax for inexpensive housing.

Florida Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay.

“I don’t consider any interpretation of the invoice would permit for that,” Tremendous mentioned Wednesday. “That might be a grossly unlawful use of the vacationer growth tax. The rationale I ran the invoice was that the County Fee was losing cash.”

Tremendous mentioned he pushed the invoice in Tallahassee after Hurricane Irma had hit the state in 2017, and the county had launched uncooked sewage into the Indian River Lagoon. Round that point, Tremendous mentioned, county commissioners allotted vacationer tax cash towards things like a basketball area, a recreational-vehicle park and lighthouse museum.

“That was insane,” Tremendous mentioned. “In case your sewer system doesn’t work, that’s your elementary job.”

The Florida Legislature in 2018 authorised an modification to the act that particulars how a county can spend its vacationer growth tax income, in order that counties can use the tax income for public amenities, if they’re wanted to extend tourist-related enterprise actions. However Brevard County’s vacationer growth plan till now didn’t embody such public amenities as a licensed use of the tax collected regionally.

Tremendous had envisioned the levy as a means to supply an extra funding supply for infrastructure tasks to assist clear up the Indian River Lagoon. He crafted the laws to permit the vacationer growth tax cash to be spent for infrastructure tasks which might be instantly tied to tourism.

Tremendous mentioned an instance of such a venture could be the development of an offramp resulting in the deliberate aquarium at Port Canaveral.

“Housing wouldn’t meet that definition by any interpretation,” Tremendous mentioned.

He added that the County Fee’s logic might prolong to an entire host of tasks, comparable to the development of a brand new police station, as a result of the power offers safety for vacationers visiting the realm, or for a hearth station.

How tax is allotted

The most important share of Brevard’s vacationer growth tax —  47% — goes towards a complete plan to market the Area Coast as a vacation spot for vacationers.

The remainder of the cash is distributed for numerous functions: 25% for seashore enchancment, 14% for tourism-related capital amenities, 5% for the Brevard Zoo in Viera, 4% for cultural occasions, 3% for theUSSSA Area Coast Complicated in Viera and a pair of% for customer data facilities.

Any cash the county allocates below its extra versatile pointers would come out of the 14% for tourism-related capital tasks.

Earlier than the change authorised Tuesday, that fund might be used solely to “purchase, assemble, prolong, enlarge, rework, restore, enhance, keep, function or promote” conference facilities, sports activities stadiums, sports activities arenas, coliseums or auditoriums throughout the county; in addition to museums, zoological parks, aquariums, fishing piers or nature facilities that are publicly owned and operated or owned and operated by not-for-profit organizations and open to the general public throughout the county.

Dave Berman is enterprise editor at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Berman at [email protected]. Twitter: @bydaveberman.

Ralph Chapoco is authorities and politics watchdog reporter. You may attain Chapoco at [email protected] and comply with him on Twitter @rchapoco.

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