BUZ LIVINGSTON: Financial planning and bed taxes

Published: Thursday, July 31, 2014 at 12:34 PM.

Financial planning includes specific steps. First, determine the scope of the relationship then gather data and present the plan. After the next step, implementation, the financial planning process includes monitoring and reviewing the original plan to determine if changes are needed. What was suitable five years ago may be different now.  Losing a loved one, gaining a grandchild, developing health issues or navigating economic woes can mandate adjustments. Remember John Lennon’s words to his baby boy, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”.

The Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners took a bold step by indicating an interest in using TDC revenue to offset tourism costs, now borne by solely by property owners. For decades the bed taxes collected from short term rentals were used to maintain beach accesses, fund beach nourishment projects and improve tourism-related amenities. But bed tax dollars have historically gone to promote tourism and that should be their primary use. In a welcome and innovative note, the South Walton TDC has highlighted our area’s unique musical industry.

Without a doubt tourism brings money by the bucketful. While tourism generates tons of revenue we should explore ways to use bed tax revenue for infrastructure and safety needs. South Walton’s bike path could (should) be maintained, improved and expanded with TDC revenue. Florida ’s own www.VisitFlorida.com promotes the Timpoochee Trail aka 30A bike path but local taxpayers pay most of the costs. An expanded and improved bike path would alleviate traffic while promoting tourism. Bed tax revenue should be the logical source.

South Walton’s tourism deluge has reached a critical mass. Record setting vacation numbers show the marketing success but an ever-growing burden has shifted to local property owners. Under current law limitations exist on how bed tax revenue can be spent but laws can be changed. Like a portfolio benefits from diversification we should diversify how we spend bed tax revenue and look for ways to minimize property owners’ burden.

When 331 has four lanes of asphalt, get ready for a (another) growth spurt. We need to look at innovative ways to enhance the tourist experience while maintaining the quality of life. Continuing to promote the area should be balanced with the costs tourism places on property owners. We are advertising our area but once people get here they will soon find they can’t get to the beach and don’t have a place to park. The bulk of bed tax revenue should go to promote tourism, let’s think outside the box a bit. 

During vacation season first responders field a high number of beach-related calls primarily from tourists. This cost currently is picked up via your local property tax. Like Okaloosa County we need to look at these expenditures and determine if tourists should help pay.  We should keep promoting our area but the “we have always done it this way” mentality needs to go on vacation.

Even though Buz Livingston is a fee-only certified financial planner this should not be considered personal advice. For specific advice visit online at livingstonfinancial.net or at the new office in Redfish Village, 2050 Scenic 30A, M-1 Unit 230.

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