PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) — Tourism provides an enormous boost to nearly all aspects of the local economy, and also important revenue in the form of bed taxes.
But because of the coronavirus pandemic, bed tax receipts have plummeted.
It may come as a surprise, but that bed tax money helps fund beach re-nourishment projects, like the one underway at Midtown Beach in the Town of Palm Beach.
When tourists spend the night at hotels and other lodging establishments, Palm Beach County charges guests an additional six percent bed tax.
The lion’s share of the bed tax money goes to local tourism promotion, which is important, given the impact visitors have on the economy.
But the bed tax money also helps pay for beach projects, cultural events, the Palm Beach County Convention Center, and Major League Baseball spring training facilities in Jupiter and West Palm Beach.
In fact, because of the decline in bed tax money, the planned renovation of Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter is now on hold.
Glenn Jergensen, executive director of the Palm Beach County Tourist Development Council, said Thursday he estimates bed tax receipts will be down 30 to 40 percent in the current fiscal year.
Jergensen said that’s two to three times the drop seen during the Great Recession and after 9-11.
“If you don’t have people here, and they’re not going to the hotels, then we’re not getting tax dollars that we need,” said County Commissioner Mary Lou Berger, who chairs the Tourist Development Council board, which doles out the bed tax money.
“We take in money that helps us run the county and make the county better so that people will continue to come back,” said Commissioner Berger. “So it’s a little scary, but we’ve been through it before, and we’ll get through it again.
“We have a lot of the hoteliers that sit on our board,” Berger continued. “Everybody sees the reality of it. We all try to work together to get moving, do what we can.”
In an interview Thursday with CBS12 News, Florida Lt. Governor Jeanette Nunez acknowledged the importance of tourism and bed tax dollars and the strain on governments.
“The number one priority is the safety and well-being of Floridians,” said Nunez. “But our number two priority is really getting Florida’s economy back up and running because we recognize that the decrease in revenue across the board in every facet has presented tremendous challenges to communities and local governments.”
The Palm Beach County Tourist Development Council is scheduled to meet in May. One of the items the board will take up is how to move forward with the steep drop in bed tax revenues.