Who will win the Local Option Tourist Development Tax jackpot?


40-ach-funding-panelThe bed tax in St Johns County has been compared to many things over its 28-year run, some good and some not so good. A quick look at local comments from readers on several media forums range from praise to demonization; with some comments implying that if you question the “tax that you don’t pay” you are being un-American.

Last year, the Tourist Development Council was charged with oversight of an $8,938,922 budget. $9 million dollars can attract the wrong element to a “volunteer” board, and when that board is stocked with individuals who have connections to the events and organizations fighting for their “fair share” of the money, good people do bad things.

It appeared that after the recommendations for distribution of about $2.3 million of money in Category 2 funds was announced by the Arts, Culture, and Heritage Funding Panel last year, there was going to be a rebellion. Tar and feathers were in scarce supply when allegations of cronyism, favoritism, fraud, waste and abuse were leveled at the appointed funding panel, appointed Tourist Development Council, contractor St Johns Cultural Council, and even the Board of County Commissioners, who are ultimately the “deciders” of who will win the “Bed Tax Jackpot”.

So this year, the “insiders” are trying something different. They have taken some of the heat off the funding panel by allowing them to review and rank this year’s fourty-one program applicants — but NOT make any recommendation as to what percentage of their funding request is to be granted.

The candidates have been sorted by appropriate funding category and the order in which they were received. At a public meeting being held Wednesday, July 9 beginning at 9:30 a.m. in the Auditorium of the St. Johns County Administration Building located at 500 San Sebastian View in St. Augustine, each applicant will have the opportunity to present a three-minute update highlighting any new information since the application deadline in April. Panel members will then have the opportunity to ask questions. Each application will be scored by the panel following the Q&A. This process will continue for each application.

Each applicant must have a representative available to answer questions from the panel. Following the scoring of all applications, applicants will have a public comment period prior to final motion and adoption of the scores.

The panel will not be involved in the allocation of grant dollars. Scores will be forwarded to the TDC to allocate the available funds.

July 9 Panel Meeting
2015 ACH Grant Applications
Program Development
15.001 PD
COSA - Tapestry
15.002 PD
Romanza - 4th Annual Festivale
15.003 PD
SA Historical Society -Vodcasts
15.004 PD
Holy Trinity -Greek Festival
15.005 PD
EMMA - Fiesta 450th
ACH Ongoing Programs
15.006 ANN
SA Historic Inns  - B&B Tour
15.007 ANN
SA Music Festival
15.008 ANN
Flagler College -First America
15.009 ANN
Romanza - Celtic Festival
15.010 ANN
FL Heritage Book Festival
15.011 ANN
EMMA - Zuckerman/Moscow
15.012 ANN
EPIC - Taste of SA
15.013 ANN
STAR - Paseo Pastel
15.014 ANN
Limelight Theatre - 450 Theatre Celebration
15.015 ANN
SA Maritime Heritage Festival
15.016 ANN
SA Film Festival
15.017 ER
Easter Parade
15.018 ER
Middle Passage/Port Marker
15.019 ER
Historic Florida Militia - School of the 16th Century
15.020 ER
COSA - Concerts in the Plaza
15.021 ER
Romanza - St Patrick Parade
15.022 ER
British Nightwatch
15.023 ER
SA Yacht Club - Holiday Regatta
15.024 ER
SEA -Rails to Trails Festival
15.025 ER
FL Literary Arts Coalition
15.026 ER
FL Chamber Music Project
15.027 ER
COSAB - Beach Blastoff
15.028 ER
First Coast Opera - Crystal Concert
15.029 ER
SA Beach - BBQ & Blues
15.030 ER
SA Beach - Music by the Sea
15.031 ER
COSA - 450th Commission- Celebrate 450!
15.032 ER
SJ Chamber - PV Auto Show
15.033 ER
SA Art Association - A&C Festival
15.034 ER
SA Art Association - Nature and Wildlife
15.035 ER
COSA - First City through Eyes of the Masters
15.036 ER
Friends of SA Amphitheater
15.037 ER
Historic Florida Militia - Changing of the Guard
ACH Facilities
15.038 FAC
Lightner Museum
15.039 FAC
Limelight Theatre
15.040 FAC
SA Lighthouse and Museum
15.041 FAC
Cultural Center PV Beach

First established by County ordinance 86-72, the “bed tax” is assessed on short-term transient rentals. Hotel, motel rooms, campground spaces, condominiums, apartments and even private home rentals are subject to the tax if they are rented for six months or less. The current level of the county-wide tax is three percent which generates approximately $5 million annually, Chapter 125.0104 Florida Statutes is the state enabling legislation which includes procedures for implementing the tax and how the proceeds can be used among other things.

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