‘You never asked’: Destin to receive first cent Bed Tax

Savannah Vasquez

City Councilwoman Prebble Ramswell has asked a running question since taking office early last year. Where is the Bed Tax being spent in Destin?

“One of the things I was curious of was who gets it, how and why?” Ramswell said. “It appeared as though we were putting in the lions share and nothing was getting put back in to Destin.”

Ramswell said that after extensively searching the Tourist Development Council’s public financial records, she found that Okaloosa Island had well over $1 million allocated for beach access and walkway repair and improvements last year, while Destin did not receive a cent.

“We are the only other locality with beach accesses in the county and we are getting nothing,” she said. “The concern is that we are not receiving any of that money and we have double the tourists and double the beach length.”

With $14.7 million of Bed Tax dollars allocated for Okaloosa County in FY2014, Ramswell said Destin was not receiving anything on the beach repairs percentage point, even though the city was responsible for 64 percent of the tourist draw.

“They have percentage points, and each cent is allocated to specific usage,” Ramswell explained. “The first cent can be used for beach accesses, walkovers, and capital improvements. That percentage point is what I focused on; the beach improvements, beach operations, and maintenance.”

Ramswell told The Log that she brought the concern to the attention of Rep. Matt Gaetz, and after an informal meeting with County Commissioner Kelly Windes, and other TDC directors, she and the City Council began work on a formal request.

“When we asked why we had not been receiving Bed Tax for the first percentage point, the reply was, ‘You never asked,’” said Ramswell. “I said, ‘Well great we are asking now!’”

On Friday, the TDC officially voted to accept Destin’s request for $290,000 in first cent Bed Tax with another $112,000 for capital outlay and $42,000 for the Destin History and Fishing Museum pending the Board of County Commissioner’s (BCC) approval.

“What was recommended to the TDC was $290,000 in operating and maintenance for Destin’s beaches to be a recurring annual request beginning with FY16,” said Public Information Officer Doug Rainer. “There was also a one-time $112,000 capital fund for FY15 that was requested that includes reimbursement for maintaining the beaches and boardwalks.”

Ramswell added that she believes the approval from the BCC to be forthcoming, as she was told it is merely a formality.

“It’s great news,” she said. “The TDC has been great in realizing our request is valid, and helping us to proceed. It’s a good starting point, and a move in the right direction.”