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Issue 619

12/20/2012 at 4:13pm

TDC GraphKiker to Chair the
Tourist Development Council

On Friday afternoon, the Lee County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) appointed former Fort Myers Beach Mayor and newly elected Lee Commissioner Larry Kiker as Chairman of the Tourist Development Council (TDC), something Kiker says he hopes will usher in an era of greater communication between the TDC and the communities it serves.

The nine-member TDC was established by the BoCC in 1983 to increase tourism to Lee County. At that time, Lee residents approved a 2% tax on short-term accommodations (commonly known as the Bed Tax). That number was raised to 3% in 1988 and to 5% in 2005 to support the Beaches and Shorelines Capital Improvements Program. The nine-member TDC serves as an advisory board to the BoCC and oversees the re-distribution of that tax and reviews the expenditures of the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau (VCB).

Kiker told us that it was previous Chairman John Manning that gave him the seat and that he is excited to serve on the Council.

"First, I plan to get the TDC truly active in what's going on with the tourist industry,” he said. "I want to bring more local influence and instill more dialogue with the folks in the VCB. Second, I want to improve communications with local existing businesses that are supposed to be benefiting from this – I also plan on doing the same thing with all the mayors of municipalities within Lee County.”

To that end, Kiker also told us the he fully supports an amendment designed to equalize the makeup of the TDC itself. Since it's creation, the TDC has – per Florida Statute - been comprised of three elected officials, three representatives from accommodations collecting the tourist tax, and three representatives from tourism-related industries. The elected officials include one county commissioner as Chair, and two other seats – one representing the town with the highest population and the other rotating every four years between the remaining municipalities. This means that Cape Coral has always held a permanent seat while the other four cities in Lee (Ft. Myers, Bonita Springs, Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach) must rotate -despite the fact all contribute more money to TDC coffers than Cape Coral. When Kiker was Mayor of Fort Myers Beach, he and the rest of the council worked for years to have this disparity changed. At a meeting held on October 23 of this year – before Kiker was elected – the BoCC unanimously approved an amendment to change the highest population requirement to 'most tourist tax contributions' and to make the revolving seat rotate every two years instead of four.

"This changes the permanent seat to the highest revenue producer, and the last time I checked Sanibel was only beating Fort Myers Beach by a little more than $80,000,” Kiker said. "Lee County is the only county in the state where the largest population does not produce the highest revenue, so this makes us equal with everyone else. Plus the fact that the other seat rotates every two years gives everyone a chance to sit at the table more often.”

The amendment was given to Lee County's Legislative Delegation to take to Tallahassee.

According to VCB Director Tamara Pigott, Fort Myers Beach contributed $3,894,711 – or 14.7% of all municipalities in Lee - to the TDC revenue stream for the fiscal year 2011/2012, making us second only to Sanibel Island, who contributed 3,976,780 or 15%. The amount that came back to the Town in projects was distributed as follows:

Operations Beach Maintenance (Town) $505,897

Operations Beach Maintenance (County) $589,600

Estero Beach Renourishment $32,000

TOTAL: $1,127,497

In addition to the Beach and Shoreline program – which receives 26.4% of the bed tax funds collected, the TDC also manages the Events Marketing Funding program, which is allocated 53.6%. The remaining 20% covers the debt service on Lee's two Spring Training stadiums.

The amount the Town was granted for events marketing for 2011/2012 was:

FMB Chamber – Sandsculpting, $42,500

FMB Little League – Pirate Festival, $11,100

Total: $53,600

Keri Hendry Weeg