Monthly Column By Chelle Concha, Lead Researcher for Protect Navarre
I retired to Navarre in June of 2021. My plan was to simply live and let live. I wanted to enjoy a peaceful existence in paradise, helping in my church community and other community-based organizations.
I joined Preserve Navarre, a pro-incorporation group, on October of 2021. However, by the beginning of January of 2022, I had left that organization as it became crystal clear that group wasn’t trying to preserve anything at all. They were also spreading false narratives and/or half-truths.
I do believe that the intentions of Preserve Navarre’s membership are mostly good and that they believe that only a shiny new $9 million city hall costing us $22 million plus per year can save Navarre.
But what they think we need and what we actually need, in my opinion, are two very different stories.
My conclusions will always be based on research and fact finding here, not cherry-picking data to get the answer I am seeking. After deep diving into the talking points, which at first made the idea of a City of Navarre seem appealing, I discovered some truths, which I would like to share.
MYTH #1 NAVARRE GETS LEFT-OVER BED TAX BREADCRUMBS: The pro-incorporation side claims almost all tourist development tax revenues (AKA bed taxes) “go to Milton” and that Navarre is left with a miniscule amount of the leftover bread crumbs.
THE TRUTH: NAVARRE AND NAVARRE BEACH GET THE LION’S SHARE OF BED TAXES. I met with Julie White, the director of tourism for the Santa Rosa County. Here is what I learned:
Santa Rosa County’s bed tax is at 5 pennies. The “fifth penny” is set aside solely for Navarre Beach Renourishment, which takes place every 7-10 years. The other 4 pennies fund the Santa Rosa County Tourist Development Office and Navarre Beach Department budget. Ultimately the Navarre Beach Department is under the Tourist Development Office, which is an enterprise fund. Enterprise fund means the citizens of Santa Rosa County are not paying for that county budget to operate. Instead, visitors to Santa Rosa County, staying in overnight accommodations (ex: hotel, condos and Airbnbs), fund the department and its projects.
Per Florida Statutes, the Santa Rosa County Clerk of Court collects local bed taxes. So, technically, those funds do “go to Milton,” but they do not stay there.
There is an appointed Tourist Development Council which makes the recommendations on how the county expends the bed taxes. The council makes recommendations to the county commission.
The most recent spreadsheet, which breaks down all capital expenditures which have been funded from by Santa Rosa County’s bed taxes since 2018, can be viewed via the following link:
MOST RECENT TOURISM DEVELOPMENT TAX (BED TAX) CAPITAL PROJECTS LIST
Please take a close look at the document. The left-hand side shows projects funded or allocated north of the Yellow River, totaling $279,733. The right-hand column shows projects funded or allocated south of Yellow River, totaling, $4,375,881. Clearly there is a large difference with the bulk of the funding going to South County!
It’s also noteworthy that this spreadsheet does not include any bed tax funding utilized for the multi-million dollar improvements at Navarre Park.
Once you take the time to look at both sides of the spreadsheet and take Navarre Park funding into account, the facts reveal that Navarre and Navarre Beach have and continues to consistently get the lion’s share of bed tax dollars.
When we are made to feel like we are being cheated by our brothers and sisters on the north end of the county, it is easy to feel like something major has got change. This, my friends, is the famous divide and conquer strategy. When we are being fed half-truths and then the real facts are presented, it is easy to see that maybe a new layer of government is not as attractive today as it was yesterday?
More Truth Finding to come your way, Navarre.