How the Tourist Development Council works as it relates to Okaloosa Tourism

As a body, the Tourist Development Council makes recommendations to the Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners.

The Tourist Development Council often gets confused with the Tourist Development Department. You’ll hear people refer to the TDC when really they mean the TDD. It’s an easy mistake but the role of each acronym is vastly different.

The TDC is made up of volunteers from the tourist industry, as well as elected officials. The TDD is made up of county employees. The current makeup of the Council includes:

  • 3 elected officials, including one county commissioner
  • 3 lodging partners
  • 3 hospitality business owners and operators

🗣 If the proposed bed-tax expansion election passes, the makeup of the TDC will slightly change.

The terms are 4 years for sitting on the TDC, and members have to be living and working in the tourism industry within the bed-tax district.

  • Like any council seat, members fill out an application and go through a vetting process.
  • The Board of County Commissioners then have the final say on approval.

“We want to have a good mix,” said Ken Wampler, Chairman of the TDC. “We can’t slant it one way or the other too far, because it’s all about what’s best for the community, or the bed-tax district, in this case.”

As a body, the Tourist Development Council makes recommendations to the Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners. According to Wampler, in order to make valid recommendations to the BOCC, you need to have tourism related people on the TDC, and there’s currently six.

  • “The Tourist Development Tax is collected by lodging partners and obviously the lodging partners have a vested interest on how are you spending the money that we’re collecting for the county,” said Wampler. “But at the end of the day, the county has to ensure that the money is being spent the proper way.”

🚨 It’s important to note that they are a recommending board. The BOCC has the final say.

Wampler says that Florida statute dictates where you can spend money, and how you can spend money, for the funds that are generated through the bed-tax.

“Truly, I feel this, and I have for the last four years, no one is out to figure out how can I get a piece of that nickel because we’re regulated on what we can spend the money on,” explained Wampler. “And obviously the county is the last say on that.”

As for the bed-tax, Wampler says it’s collected to basically do three things…

“In my opinion, it’s to promote tourism in the area, maintain tourism related facilities, as well as add-to tourism related facilities,” said Wampler.

The last two items are what Wampler feels the general public and the citizens of Okaloosa County benefit from the most.

  • The local citizenry benefits from all the things that we do relative to creating a reason why someone would want to come here on vacation and ultimately hopefully move here. And that happens all the time.”
  • Wampler explains that if the County decided to expand a park, as an example, it wouldn’t be just for tourists. It would be open to the public as well.
Current bed-tax district in yellow

As for spending the current bed-taxing district funds throughout the county, that can’t happen at the moment. The funds can only be spent in the areas in which it was collected. This includes the promotional aspect.

  • According to Wampler, back in the late 1980s, the lodging partners got together with the County Commissioners and the municipalities to collect additional funds from the tourists to help maintain and build up the attractions within the bed-tax district.
  • This is the current bed-tax district that we have today. Basically everything south of the Bay.

“Clearly, areas like Crestview, Niceville, Baker, and north Fort Walton Beach have tourism,” continued Wampler. “Tourists that go to-and-from in those areas, as well has tourism-related parks and attractions.”

  • The TDC cannot make recommendations for those areas because they are outside of the district.

Residents outside of the current taxing district can expect ballots to arrive in mailboxes now, and vote on the countywide expansion.

  • Crestview
  • Baker
  • Laurel Hill
  • Niceville
  • Shalimar
  • Parts of Fort Walton Beach

The ballot has to be returned to the Supervisor of Elections by October 5th.

  • Ballots can be returned via mail, or delivered in-person.
  • There are instructions on the ballot when you receive it in the mail.

For more info on the upcoming election, head to MyOkaloosa.com.

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