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Indian River will consider boosting bed tax 25% to fund beach repair, tourist promotion

Posted on June 12, 2023

Would paying an 1% hotel tax stop vacationers from coming here?

County commissioners debated that question Tuesday as they considered a proposal by commission Chairman Joe Earman to hike the county bed 25%, from the current 4% to 5%.

According to Earman, increasing the bed tax by 1% could generate approximately an additional $1 million annually, which could be used both for beach renourishment and for county tourism efforts. Thirty-four counties in Florida — including Brevard, Martin and St. Lucie — currently have a 5% bed tax.

“It’s a funding source that we need to look at,” said Earman. “This is additional funding; it’s not a huge impact on a family coming to Indian River County to have that additional cent on their hotel room. That’s what you’re doing. If you haven’t spent a lot of money, go to Disney and see how much you’re spending when you  go there but they still go. And they’re still going to come here.”

More information needed

But Commissioner Joe Flescher, who chairs the county Tourism Development Council, said he would need more information before deciding whether a hike in the bed tax is warranted. “I think we need a lot more information before we make changes,” said Flescher. “It sounds negligible, it’s only a penny, but it adds up. When a family wants to come here, a penny here, a penny there, that adds up to dollars.”

Commissioners will ask the county budget office to provide more information about how that additional 1% could be spent before making a decision. They are to consider the increase again July 11.

Commissioners did approve $1.67 million for tourism agency requests for 2023-24, including an additional $214,420 for the Indian River County Chamber of Commerce for marketing efforts on behalf of county tourism. Tourist tax revenue for Indian River County skyrocketed to a record in 2021-22, jumping to $4.5 million, up from $3.6 million in 2020-21.

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