Published on : Friday, April 24, 2020
The economy of Florida is driven by tourism, but the nationwide coronavirus lockdown has lowered tourism and travel sector. While exact figures since the shutdown won’t be calculated until the end of the month, Bay and Walton County officials and spokespeople said that their municipalities will definitely see an impact on their revenue streams.
Here most officials said that they are unsure of how it may affect future budget plans. Louis Svehla, Walton County public information officer, said that sales and uses taxes, including the tourist development tax, which is a 5% tax on short-term rentals and hotels, makes up for one-third of the Walton County’s revenues.
Around this time, Walton County sees about 60% tourism occupancy, said David Demarest, a TDC spokesperson. Right now the county is at 2%, he added.
Svehla wrote that at this time, they feel certain that the losses will be in the millions of dollars,” in an email, but that, right now, Walton County is seeing delays in projects due more to a shortage of available employees than a shortage of funds.
Early pandemic projections for Panama City Beach anticipated a 60% decline in tourism and up to $9.1 million in tax revenue losses, made up for with capital project budget cuts including road repairs and facility enhancements, city manager Tony O’Rourke said.
O’Rourke confirmed this 60% decline in tourism and $8.8 million in lost revenue, and expects a higher rate of decline in tourism in the following months due to the short term rental prohibitions and gathering size restrictions, leading to a sharper decline in tax revenue. Panama City officials also said that the city is expecting shortfalls because of the pandemic.
Bay County manager Bob Majka said that the county has about $80 million in reserve funds and is expecting between $25 and $40 million in losses depending on how long the shutdown stays in effect. After the reserves, they may be able to push projects like enhancements and repairs from Hurricane Michael, he added, and that jobs may be effected.
Majka said that this is going to cause a lot of organizations, whether they’re private sector or public sector, to really go back and look at the way they conduct business.
The officials will know more about how these losses will affect future budget plans when the March and April budget tax reports come in May and June, respectively.