On Tuesday morning, stakeholders from Destin and Crestview spoke before the Okaloosa Tourism Development Council regarding their positions on the newly announced expansion of the Tourism Development Tax (TDT).
Shane Moody, CEO of the Destin Chamber of Commerce, was the first to speak on issue.
“Our position on the tax expansion right now is that we don’t have a position,” said Moody. “Our Board feels like we don’t have enough information yet. They want to see the Ordinance as it comes back.”
Moody went on to say that he has spoken with Deputy County Administrator Craig Coffey and explained that he “doesn’t even need the exact ordinance”, that a draft would help them understand where they stand on the issue as a Chamber.
Some of the issues that the Destin Chamber is concerned about include:
- Proper representation of the City of Destin on the Tourist Development Council. “Since we generate 68% of the tax, we feel that it’s important that we have a seat on this council continually,” said Moody.
- The $41 million in the reserves remain for South Bay projects within the current district.
- Beach restoration money
“I have faith that the attorneys will work this out,” continued Moody. “We certainly understand the importance of county-wide partnerships. We’ve always worked towards that goal. I don’t see this being any differently down the line as we get there. But I did want you to hear that our position is that we don’t have one currently before anything comes out.”
Crestview City Manager Tim Bolduc was also at the meeting Tuesday morning and spoke to the TDC right after Moody.
“I was that the County Commissioners meeting when our Mayor expressed during that meeting our excitement about the opportunity to work together with the rest of Okaloosa county, and those that are currently in the district, to develop a system that is fair and equitable to everybody,” said Bolduc. “I’m here today to mirror that. We look forward to participating in the process. We understand the risk, and the fear maybe, that Destin is experiencing right now.”
Bolduc went on to say that the City of Crestview understands the concern regarding “protecting existing revenues.”
“All of those things make sense to us,” he continued. “We absolutely believe that there’s a place that everybody can work together at the table to get this done. We know that 67% of the revenue comes from Destin but they have to get there, and in order to get there, they come through Crestview and Niceville and some of the other areas.”
As for the City of Destin, the council met on Monday night and agreed to hire Attorney Jeff Burns, of the Burns Law Firm, to help the city navigate the discussions surrounding ballot language and the final ordinance.
- Mr. Burns will be hired for the next two weeks to perform research and provide an expert analysis of what the City’s options are.
Destin Council-member Chatham Morgan expressed that he would like “concrete legal assurances” that the money generated from the bed tax in Destin wouldn’t be pulled into the north-end part of the county.
“If we are going to continue to bring tourists down here, I want to make sure that we need to continue to invest in our infrastructure down here in Destin,” said Morgan.
With that, Mr. Morgan said he would like some of the legal research to include:
- Legal opinion on Okaloosa preventing existing taxing district residents from voting on the expansion.
- Legal opinion on how Walton County has created their sub-districts.
- Legal opinion on how a city can withdraw from a taxing district.
Bottom line: All parties involved seemed to currently want to work together to make the expansion happen. It’s just a matter of language at this point.