When crafting a budget, staff and advisory board at the Gulf County Tourist Development Council skew toward the conservative.
They examine what the projections are for state trends, local trends from recent years and consider some “what-ifs.”
After all, the TDC is funded through bed taxes, so-called “heads in beds” and not property values or other local taxes.
Storms can take a bite.
“As you can see, if there’s a major storm in July that could mean (the loss of) $500,000 or so,” said TDC executive director Kelli Godwin. “We try to keep (budgeting) conservative so we are not dipping into reserves.”
That conservative approach resulted in bed tax revenue for the fiscal year reaching the budgeted projection with two months still remaining.
Revenue numbers for the month of July, the most recent month available, reflected an increase of 4.14 percent compared to the same month in 2017.
And to put that into sharper contrast; July 2017 was up more than 38 percent compared to the prior year.
“We were happy with the numbers,” Godwin said. “It means we have now met our budget and we still have two months to go.
“Summer overall was up.”
To say the least.
June was up 14.7 percent prior to July’s increase, bed taxes during the two months nearly $80,000 ahead of summer 2017.
Each month reaped at least $444,000 in bed taxes.
Just one of the first 10 months of the fiscal year saw a drop in bed tax revenues.
To compare, 2017 had five such months.
And August 2018, with a later and more bountiful scallop season, has, at least anecdotally, provided a bump, particularly for short-term lodging partners.
“We have heard awesome reports,” Godwin said of the scallop season. “I am all for moving the season later in the year, when the scallops are bigger and it helps the population.
“It was nice this year to spread (the harvest season) around.”
Particularly after two years of shortened and delayed scallop seasons; state surveys reflect a population rebounding from collapse of 2016.
The growth of bed tax revenue over the past five years has been astounding, factoring or not the implementation of a fifth penny three years ago.
Bed tax revenue broke the $1 million mark for the first time in 2012-13.
The fifth penny arrived two fiscal years later and resulted in a jump in revenue of nearly 39 percent year over year, raising bed tax dollars to over $1.6 million.
Annual growth since as been 14 percent, 7 percent and this year, as of the end of July, 11 percent.
Revenue is up $193,883 for the year to $1.881 million; the TDC budget was based on revenues of $1.8 million.
After eclipsing $2 million for the first time during the prior fiscal year, bed tax revenues are currently on track to top $2.2 million with August and September numbers to be calculated.
With Labor Day, and a rained out concert by the U.S. Navy Band, in the rearview mirror, the TDC’s work is now centered on the coming fiscal year.
Plans for a spring marketing campaign will be brought to the advisory board during its next meeting later this fall and the new Visitor’s Guide is taking shape with a January print deadline.
The “Turtle Trail” is a success, with several people already snapping photos with all six of the first “hatchings” and earning a box of paper straws.