On Tuesday, Okaloosa County residents voted to pass the countywide bed-tax expansion via mail-in ballot.
Last night, the Okaloosa Supervisor of Elections office counted the ballots and released the unofficial results around 9pm.
- Yes – 12,296 votes
- No – 6,500 votes
That equates to roughly a 17.6% voter turnout.
Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux told Crestview Community Television that there were still hundreds of ballots that would have to be adjudicated, but that wouldn’t happen until Thursday.
“Tourism tax has been collected on overnight stays in the south end of the county for decades,” said Okaloosa County Board Chairman Carolyn Ketchel. “Time has shown that the entire county feels the effects of tourism so the moment was right to let the voters decide on expanding countywide. We’re looking forward to this bright new opportunity for our residents and guests of Okaloosa County.”
A big part of the expansion will be how the funds will be collected. Currently, all of the bed-tax money is collected by the Department of Revenue. It will change to in-house collection.
- With the Local Collection Method, Okaloosa will gain valuable insight and knowledge relating to where the TDT dollars are collected, which cannot be done through the current collection method.
In a Facebook Live video with Commissioners Nathan Boyles and Paul Mixon, Clerk of Court JD Peacock said that his office plans on having the system in place to receive the bed-tax funds on February 1, 2022. This will be for January receipts.
- Beginning March 1, 2022, his office will begin collecting for the entire county.
In an interview with Get The Coast in September, Tourism Director Jennifer Adams discussed the opportunities with expanding the district.
“What I love about the expansion of the taxing district is all the other products that I’ll have,” said Adams. “Just think about camping. There’s so many more opportunities to promote camping in the north-end of the county because they have great campgrounds. There is hiking, paddleboarding, kayaking down the fresh water system. There’s all these great things.”
Adams says that with our local ecosystem, even more can be done:
- Stargazing pop-ups
- More robust turtle patrol
- Learning more about the wildlife
“The journey down to the beach should be filled with so many other opportunities other than just sitting in the car, getting stuck at the tolls, and waiting for your room to be ready,” said Adams.