Once upon a time, a million dollars was a lot of money.
In 1990, the year Manatee County first instituted a resort development tax on rentals of six months or less, $1.4 million was collected. The resort tax was set at 3 percent.
The revenue that first year was considered a remarkable sum by then-Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Larry White.
But as Bob Dylan sang, “The times they are a-changing.”
Twenty-three years later, Manatee County resort tax collections for a single month — January — topped the $1 million mark for the first time in history. The tax is now set at 5 percent of the rental rate.
As Jesse Brisson, owner-broker of Gulf-Bay Realty, 5309 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, said: “It’s obvious to island residents and accommodation owners and managers that tourism didn’t take the normal drop in January.”
Brisson said it’s easy to see why resort tax collections have increased, while the average daily rental rate has gone up just about 1.5 percent from January 2013.
“There’s no question that tourism marketing by the BACVB has increased the number of people visiting Anna Maria. We used to have a slight lull the first few weeks of January, but this year all our vacation rentals were booked from Jan. 7 through the end of the month.”
He said that in December his office listed 15 new-to-the-rental-market vacation rental units.
“Those were all rented for January within a few weeks,” he said.
Sue Sinquefield of the resort tax collections department reported $1.022 million was collected in February for January rentals.
The resort tax — or bed tax — is paid one month in arrears.
The $1.022 million was a 13.5 percent year-to-year gain from the $900,960 collected in January 2013 and, based upon past reports, is a sure sign that tourism to Anna Maria Island increased about 6.5 percent for the month.
For nearly three years, the percent of increase in tourism has been about half of the percentage increase of resort tax collections.
The full report of tourism to the area will be delivered by Walter Klages of Research Data Services at the April 7 meeting of the Manatee County Tourist Development Council. Klages reported in February that tourism for 2013 was up 6.6 percent from 2012.
For the fiscal year beginning in October, resort tax collections for the first four months are at $2.851 million, a 17 percent gain from the $2.436 million collected during the first quarter of fiscal year 2012-13.
Sinquefield attributed the increase to the rise in visitors and better collection techniques, including locating property owners renting their property without paying the resort tax.
Sinquefield reminded anyone renting their property short-term — less than six months — that they must have a license from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Florida Department of Revenue, register with the Manatee County Tax Collector’s office and a municipal license to rent property, if required.
At the current rate of resort tax collections, the county is on pace to break the record for annual collections of $8.99 million set in the past fiscal year.
Sinquefeld said the department agents aren’t looking to set records, they are just doing their jobs.
“And doing them quite well,” she added.