Collections of the “tax” that was first sold to St Johns County residents in 1986 as “the tax you will never have to pay” are up a half-million dollars over last year; that according to a report obtained by Historic City News on Friday.
The St Johns County “Local Option Tourist Development Tax”, commonly referred to as the “bed tax”, has reached a new high; yet, in February 2010, the Board of County Commissioners voted to raise the bed tax from 3% of eligible sales to 4% countywide, or, 6% in the World Golf Village area.
The St Johns County Government website for the Tourist Development Council understates the amount collected as “approximately $5 million annually”. In truth, collections have surpassed $7 million in the past year — money that comes with a lot of strings and no small amount of controversy and suspicion.
Owners or agents of any living quarters or accommodations in any hotel, apartment hotel, motel, resort motel, apartment, apartment motel, rooming house, mobile home park, recreational vehicle park, single family dwelling, time share resort or condominium, rented for a period of six months or less, must obtain a business tax receipt and remit the appropriate tax based on the location of the rental property.
The source of the money is clear — the tax is collected by property owners, or their agents, in much the same way that the six-percent state sales tax is collected; except that it is remitted to the local tax collector and not the Florida Department of Revenue.
What part of the county generates the money is also clear — of the $7,091,983 reported Friday, the major contributors are located in the following areas:
Anastasia Island (32080) $2,446,705
Ponte Vedra Beach (32082) $1,764,592
St Augustine (32084) $2,115,018
St Augustine South (32086) $20,383
I-95 West (32092) $605,590
Palencia (32095) $115,872
How the money is spent, and whose hands make it to the $7 million-dollar cookie jar, not so clear. Historic City News will be continuing looking into who “really” benefits from the optional tax in future articles.