ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Since 1979, anyone who has stayed at a hotel or vacation rental in Orange County has paid the Tourist Development Tax (TDT).
In March, not many people did, Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond announced Monday afternoon.
“For the month of March 1, tax collections were $13,633,000 that is a decrease of 56.5% over March of 2019,” Diamond said. “To put that in context that decrease percentage wise is the largest percentage decrease in the history of our current development tax. It’s also the biggest dollar drop in the history of our tourist development tax and it’s the smallest amount collected since November of 2013. Clearly COVID-19 has affected our economy.”
Most of Orlando's theme parks were closed by mid-March.
"When you think about no-shows at the convention center, and the theme parks closed for half a month, you can guess the numbers aren't going to be very good," Diamond said.
Diamond said around $700 million of the TDT has helped fund major Orange County projects like the construction of the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center and the Amway Center and the renovation of the Citrus Bowl.
It also helps fund the Orlando Ballet, the Orlando Philharmonic, and the Pulse Memorial Museum.
“The TDT - everybody pays it when they check into a hotel or motel, or to a vacation rental,” Diamond said. “You pay your sales tax which is 6% you pay the TDT which is another 6%. In Orange County we collect more than anywhere else in Florida, we collect probably 30% of the entire state. And that’s really a testament to how big and popular Orlando is.”
Visit Orlando, the county’s marketing agency takes 25% of TDT revenue, said Diamond.
“But some of the items that the TDT pays for are fixed, we can’t change the amount,” Diamond said. “One thing we have is debt in bonds that we have to pay off on the convention center. That’s about $80 million a year, we don’t really have a choice if we have to pay that. Fortunately, we’ve got to reserves for that. But that’s one of the things we can’t change. But right off the bat that’s $80 million we have to pay.”
Diamond said Orange County was on track to collect $300 million through the TDT before Coronavirus. Last year the county collected $284 million.
“One thing we have done and should give us our confidence is we have strong reserves in Orange County, something my office has always insisted on,” Diamond said.