Orange County's Tourist Development Tax Citizen Advisory Task Force will meet again on March 12, to discuss how to best use the resort tax fund, which has more than $300,000,000 in annual revenues and $300,000,000 in reserves.
The task force was asked to set goals and objectives regarding the future use of resort tax revenues. These would then be presented to the county commission for approval.
Resort taxes are collected from hotel, motel, and short-term rentals. The funds are only to be used for the Orange County Convention Center and tourism promotion. They can also be used for bidding for arts, museums and sports events that will be held in Orange County, as well as funding tourism-related infrastructure such the Amway Center and Camping World Stadium. Some in the community want to expand the use of the funds to include housing, transportation and other things.
The agenda of the next meeting of the task force has not yet been posted on the county website, but the discussion is likely to be intense, as the amount of money that will be released next year from the resort tax fund, which has increased rapidly since 2023, is substantial.
Orange County, for example, has collected over $155.2 million in the five months of October to February of its current fiscal year. This is a 23.5% increase from the $125.9 millions collected at this time last year.
The county's original budget for 2023 was $125 million. However, the amount collected so far in February has exceeded that by $30.5 millions or 24.4%.
The county also continues to pay annual bond payments owed for the past expansion of the convention center and the upgrades at Orlando venues like the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, and Camping World Stadium - which is approximately $79.2 millions this year.
In 2024, a portion of the outstanding bonds is expected to be paid and this will free up almost $23 million annually in resort tax revenues for other purposes.
The county will have more money than it originally budgeted and a lump sum that was previously set aside for a specific purpose is now available. This money can be used to fund new projects by the advisory board.
This could be a game-changer, since the Tourist Development Tax is an important source of funding for the county in terms of major projects that promote tourism.
The 7 million square foot Orange County Convention Center, the third largest in America, is undergoing a long-term extension that will likely require funding to make it a reality. Before 2020, the roughly 300,000.square-foot $605 million price tag was halted due to travel's impact from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The county's representatives said that there had been no new developments regarding the project.
A majority of Orlando Business Journal's readers still want this project. A non-scientific survey conducted in February revealed that 56.7% respondents thought it was time to resume the expansion of the convention center, while 43.3% disagreed. A survey conducted in February showed that 36.7% said the discussions should be held as soon as possible.