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Okaloosa approves local municipal projects funded by tourist tax dollars

The Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners has approved the expenditure plans submitted by local municipalities for their allocation of 12.5% of collected tourist development taxes for fiscal year 2024.  The municipalities worked closely with […]

Preston Hood Sports Complex in Fort Walton Beach

The Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners has approved the expenditure plans submitted by local municipalities for their allocation of 12.5% of collected tourist development taxes for fiscal year 2024. 

  • This funding comes from an agreement made in March 2022 that provides cities and towns across the county a share of bed tax revenue to support local tourism infrastructure projects. 

The municipalities worked closely with county staff to ensure their proposals align with promoting tourism, as required by state statute and the county’s Tourist Development Plan. The funds are dispersed on a reimbursement basis upon receipt of invoices and documentation. Unused funds can rollover for up to 6 years before reverting back to the county.

A look at the projects

Town of Cinco Bayou:

  • Glenwood Park Nature Expansion – Multi-year expansion of nature trails and boardwalks in Glenwood Park ($55,000)
  • Sea Way Boat Launch Upgrades – Multi-year upgrades to boat launch facilities to improve usability and safety ($133,065)

City of Crestview:

  • Brookmeade Park Improvements – Expand skate park, add RC track observation deck, concession stand, RV parking ($656,365)

City of Destin:

  • Beach & Boardwalk Operations – Maintain and operate beach parks, trails and harbor boardwalk ($700,000)
  • Advance Funding – Year 2 of 10-year agreement to pay back advanced funding for beach acquisition ($750,000)

City of Fort Walton Beach:

  • Preston Hood Athletic Complex Expansion – Add multipurpose fields, concession stand, pickleball courts, exercise trail ($150,000)
  • Concerts in the Park Series – Enhance free summer concert series ($20,000)
  • Synthetic Turf at Athletic Complex – Install turf on baseball/softball infields to enable play after rain ($675,000)

City of Mary Esther:

  • Misty Water Pier and Boat Ramp – Demolish and reconstruct fishing pier and gangway ($146,088)

City of Niceville:

  • Community Aquatic Center Complex – Provide funds to construct new multipurpose aquatic center ($790,320)

City of Valparaiso:

  • Carmichael Buggy Repair – Repair and restore historic horse-drawn carriage for display at museum ($5,000)

“I’m pleased to see this process working itself out,” said Commissioner Nathan Boyles. “Our municipal partners are pleased with the compromise and I want to thank staff for guiding the cities to make sure we have a good list of projects that provide tourism infrastructure across the county,” 

Commissioner Mel Ponder stated he liked the “flexibility it offers each city” while remaining statutorily confined as to what and how they can be spent.

  • “You don’t have to spend the money in year one or year two. You have six years,” he said. “It allows communities like Shalimar or Laurel Hill or others that have not dedicated funds just yet to really build up and really make them very impactful, and maybe a little more purposeful, when it’s time for them to find a project.”

The cooperative allocation of tourist development tax funds enables municipalities to enrich their attractions while collaboratively enhancing Okaloosa County’s appeal as a vacation destination.

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