Frequently Asked Questions
History and Background Information
The Tourist Development Tax was approved by the voters of St. Johns County in 1986. The issue had been placed before the voters three times previously and was defeated each time. The tax, originally set at 2 percent (2%), is added to the bill paid by tourists for overnight accommodations at hotels, motels, apartment hotels, rooming houses, RV parks/campgrounds, and condominiums in St. Johns County. Anyone renting accommodations in St. Johns County for six months or less pays the tax.
The referendum approved by the voters in 1986 permitted an additional one percent (1%). The Board of County Commissioners passed an ordinance in 1991 raising the tax from 2% to 3%. The ordinance required that the additional 1% be used by Category I for advertising.
Prior to the institution of the Tourist Development Tax, the City of St. Augustine, the City of St. Augustine Beach, and St. Johns County contributed approximately $100,000 toward the promotion of tourism.
What is the intent of the Tourism Development Council?
It is the intent of the St. Johns County Tourist Development Council to recommend funding of facilities, programs, or contracts which:
- Are primarily for the purpose of and related to the development, advancement, furtherance, improvement, or promotion of tourism;
- Are within the purview of authorized uses of local tourist development taxed enumerated in Florida Statute 125.0114(5)
- Are within the definition of tourism which reads, "Tourism is the practice of touring, traveling for recreation, culture, or business" as established in the St. Johns County Tourist Development Council policy statement.
How Revenue is Collected
Taxes are collected by the St. Johns County Tax Collector. Initially, the revenues were collected by the State of Florida which charged a six percent (6%) collection fee. In 1988, the County adopted a Resolution transferring the collection responsibilities to the County Tax Collector; at which time the collection fee became two percent (2%).
How Revenue is Allocated
The St. Johns County Commission has set by ordinance (#92-32) the division of funds on a 40-30-30 basis with forty percent (40%) going to advertising and promotion, thirty percent (30%) going to culture and special events, and thirty percent (30%) going to beaches and recreation. Ordinance 92-32 further stipulates that the 40-30-30 split of tax revenues cannot be changed without a referendum election. The final 1% of tax added in 1991 is designated for advertising and is added to the 40% allocated to Category I. History had shown that a number of organizations applied for funds which the grants panel found to be worthy, but could not legitimately label some events as cultural. Direct promotion and advertising is referred to as Category I. Culture and special events are referred to as Category II, and recreation, beaches, and related facilities is referred to as Category III.
Who is responsible for ensuring the revenues are properly spent?
The Tourist Development Council has initial responsibility for the funds. They make recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners on which projects should be funded and in what amount. Funding proposals are to be submitted to the Tourist Development Council for review and recommendation before action by County staff or consideration by the Board of County Commissioners. The Clerk of the Court is the county chief financial officer and has pre-audit responsibilities for all the Tourist Development Council expenditures. The final authority for the revenues and expenditures rests with the Board of County Commissioners.
Who serves on the Tourist Development Council?
Florida Statute 125.0104 requires a nine member Tourist Development Council, and also states how the member are chosen. One member is from the County Commission. Two other elected officials also serve, one of whom must represent the most populous municipality in the county. Three members must be owners or operators of lodging facilities and must collect the tax. Three members must in involved in the tourist industry and have demonstrated a general interest in tourist development, but cannot be owners or operators of a lodging facility.
The statute further provides for four year terms. Equal representation should be accorded the greater St. Augustine area, the St. Augustine Beach/Crescent Beach area, and Ponte Vedra Beach when selected lodging industry representatives for the board. (See Exhibit A for a list of Council members.) The Statute further provides for four year terms. In 1990, the Tourist Development Council set policy that members may serve only one four-year term and the term's expiration dates be extended from June 6 to September 30.
In the event the member is appointed chair, the member may serve up to six years. In the event a vacancy occurs, the Board of County Commissioners solicits resumes for appointment. Notification of openings will be provided by the Tourist Development Council to local tourism industry trade groups.
Development of Policies
The Tourist Development Council develops policies and procedures for approval by the Board of County Commissioners. Input from the public is encouraged at all times.
The Tourist Development Council began the program in 1986 with no staff. In 1990, the Tourist Development Council hired an Office Specialist II to assist in administrative matters. The office specialist serves as an employee of the County Administrator. In 1992, the Tourist Development Council hired an Executive Director. The Executive Director is an employee of the County reporting to the County Administrator but receives direction from and implements policy for the Tourist Development Council. Funds for staffing come from each category on a prorated basis.
When and where are Tourist Development Council meetings held?
The Tourist Development Council is required by the authorizing legislation to meet at least four times per year, but has chosen to meet monthly. The meetings are generally held on the third Monday of every other month in the County Auditorium at 500 San Sebastian View at 1:30 p.m. Notices of meeting dates and times are furnished to members of the media well in advance of scheduled meetings.