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Lack of tourism could impact local surtax

Fewer visitors have come to our area due to the coronavirus outbreak. The lack of tourism means...
Fewer visitors have come to our area due to the coronavirus outbreak. The lack of tourism means less half cent surtax money for Bay County and Bay District Schools. (WJHG/WECP)(WJHG)
Published: Apr. 8, 2020 at 1:16 AM CDT
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Fewer visitors have come to our area due to the coronavirus outbreak. The lack of tourism means less half cent surtax money for Bay County and Bay District Schools.

“Both surtaxes are critical for both entities, because without them we just wouldn’t have the money to do the infrastructure projects or build schools or rebuild them after the hurricane,” Citizens Oversight Committee Member, Will Cramer said.

Bay County County Manager Bob Majka said they received around $14 million last year from the half-cent surtax and they’ve collected $3.9 million so far this year. He said the money is used for more than a dozen projects, including resurfacing Thomas Drive in Panama City Beach.

He said it’s too early to see if the lack of tourism has impacted the revenue, in terms of less sales tax collected, but regardless they still plan to complete the projects that are currently underway.

“These projects are already funded by dollars that are in the bank. Some of them may also have components that are coming from state or federal transportation dollars or water quality dollars. All of those projects are funded,” Majka said.

There is also a separate half cent surtax for school infrastructure.

“They’re using a lot of that money to rebuild schools, they’re using a lot of it for technology, they are using it for security. It’s got to be important that we get the economy back up and continue to collect sales tax,” Cramer said.

We reached out to Bay District Schools officials but they were unable to provide a comment.

Majka says if the revenue from the surtax dips, they'll put some future projects on hold.

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