GREEN COVE SPRINGS – While hurricanes in 2016 and 2017 wreaked havoc on parts of Florida, Clay County coffers experienced a financial windfall in hotel-motel tax collections. However, the bump from …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – While hurricanes in 2016 and 2017 wreaked havoc on parts of Florida, Clay County coffers experienced a financial windfall in hotel-motel tax collections. However, the bump from those two years makes the first two months of fiscal year 2018-19 look as though Clay County is experiencing a revenue loss.
“What I can tell you is that we are down 7 percent for the first two months,” said Kimberly Morgan, Clay County director of tourism, at the Tourist Development Council’s Jan. 16 meeting.
Morgan talked through the Bed Tax Collections report and occupancy trends for the current budget year had normalized to levels from years not associated with a hurricane.
“If you look at both 16-17 and 17-18, you’ll see that October and November were significantly higher,” Morgan said. “We are attributing those [high bed tax collections] to Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Irma.”
In fiscal year, 2016-17, Clay County collected $603,896 in hotel-motel taxes and $1,045,610 in 2017-18, which was largely attributed to residents having to live in local hotels and motels after being displaced due to Hurricane Irma.
According to Morgan, with a significant number of people displaced due to flooding and damage from the hurricanes, many people had to book hotel rooms in order to have a place of shelter. This past October and November, Clay County and surrounding areas didn’t experience any form of a hurricane akin to the likes of Matthew or Irma, which is why those months show a decline in bed tax collections.
“Basically, we’re recorrecting, so what we see from the analysis is not bad,” Morgan said. “It’s just normal again.”
TDC Chairman Mike Cella said that the new Hampton Inn & Suites on Old Orange Park at Interstate 295 could impact future bed tax collection reports in a good way. The hotel opened on Dec. 30.
While this hotel could affect the individual bed tax collection rates of surrounding hotels – people might book this hotel instead of a different one – it’s expected that Hampton Inn will boost the county’s total bed tax collection rate simply because it adds more rooms to the local inventory.
In other business, the TDC is looking for a replacement for outgoing board member Kathy White’s. In October, she filed a resignation letter months before her term was to end this March.
“With great regret, I must step down from my appointment on the TDC committee,” White’s letter reads. “I’m looking forward to retirement after all of these years in the hospitality industry which has served me well. This has been a wonderful and exciting time for me to be a part of such an outstanding group of people who give themselves to serve this beautiful county.”