Pinellas County considers how to spend bed tax dollars

Pinellas county's Tourism Development Council Wednesday capped the amount of "bed tax dollars" available for capital projects, including any new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays. 

The recommendation from the TDC to the Pinellas County Commission calls for a 60-40 split of an estimated $50 million revenue stream next year. 

That would provide $30 million for marketing the destination, which hoteliers on the panel regard as the highest priority. 

"I do not think we want to put ourselves in a position where we could erode and decrease our marketing budget," hotelier Tim Bogott argued. 

The mayors of Clearwater and St. Petersburg also sit on the TDC, and they argued for no spending caps on brick and mortar projects. 

"We've got to make sure that when they come here we can accommodate them not only with hotel rooms but also with activities so that they come back," Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos argued, before joining the majority to produce a unanimous vote. 

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman was attending a trade conference in Canada and did not vote.

The estimated $20 million a year for capital projects could disappear quickly.  Beach renourishments consume about $4 million a year. 

A request for county funding for a new Toronto Blue Jays spring training facility in Dunedin could require $2 - $3 million a year.  Ruth Eckerd Hall and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium also plan to request bed tax dollars, as do the Tampa Bay Rowdies for an expansion of Al Lang Stadium.  A proposal to redevelopment the county's closed Toytown landfill includes a request for $5 to $10 million a year.        

The biggest request would be funding for a possible new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays. 

County commissioners recently warned the franchise and the St. Petersburg city council to decide what they need before the county's bed tax revenue is spent elsewhere. 

Wednesday the TDC discussed a limit on how much money any single project could receive.           

County budget officials confirmed a rough calculation for translating revenue streams into construction money.  Every $50 million borrowed requires $2.5 million for 20 to 25 years.