EMERALD ISLE — The record-setting year for tourism and occupancy tax revenue continued through the end of 2020, Carteret County Shore Protection Office Manager Greg Rudolph said in an email Wednesday.
Even as the coronavirus pandemic continued to significantly affect the county, region and nation, November tax collections from vacation rentals of motel and hotel rooms, condominiums and houses hit $401,504, and in December the 6% tax brought in $186,056.
Both totals, while low compared to late spring, summer and early fall, easily broke the previous records for those months, $380,894 and $150,872, respectively, both set in 2018.
“A string of record-breaking months began in June and has continued unabated for every month since,” Mr. Rudolph said in the email. “It is still apparent that we are experiencing a significant uptick in visitation, almost certainly predicated by changing vacationing patterns and remote-working opportunities that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The phenomenon, he added, “helped rocket our 2020 collection of $9,004,643 to a level that was 18 percent above our previous calendar year high, which was $7,621,795, set in 2018.”
The county’s beach nourishment fund receives half of the revenue from the occupancy tax, and by the end of December, the fund had climbed to $28.6 million, even after annual expenses.
In September, the total tax collection was $1,000,631, which broke the record for that month. August also broke a record, at $1,830,611, a 17% increase compared to the same month in 2019.
Similarly, July set the all-time record for a single month at $2.41 million, eclipsing the previous record of $2.02 million set in July 2017.
Mr. Rudolph said, the county expects the nourishment fund to continue to grow, as even in normal years his office projects occupancy tax revenue to grow at 3%, and it usually exceeds that percentage. As a result, at current spending and revenue levels he expects the fund to reach $39 million by the conclusion of the 2026-27 fiscal year.
The money is used to fund beach nourishment projects, although the county also has been highly successful at getting state funds and money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency after hurricanes.
The state legislation that set up the nourishment fund and occupancy tax caps the nourishment fund at $30 million, and that could “be hypothetically exceeded sometime in the FY 2024-25/2025-26 timeframe,” Mr. Rudolph added in the email. The state has raised the beach nourishment fund cap before, however.
Meanwhile, Mr. Rudolph said, the Carteret County Beach Commission, which advises his office, will meet online and in the Pine Knoll Shores Town Hall at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
The major items on the agenda include election of the panel’s chairperson and vice chairperson.
Longtime Chairperson Trace Cooper, the mayor of Atlantic Beach, has stepped off the panel. The current vice chairperson is Emerald Isle Town Commissioner Jim Normile.
Another item is review of Mr. Rudolph’s proposed budget for the shore protection office. The commission could approve the budget at that time and pass it on to Carteret County administration for consideration in the final county budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year.
To join the meeting via Zoom, visit carteretcountync.zoom.us/j/86309762089?pwd=ZVBlcEZqQ2lBNDh6NXovM1ZTZitWQT09 and enter meeting ID 863 0976 2089 and password 361529. To listen on phone, dial 1-929-205-6099 and enter meeting ID 863 0976 2089 and password 361529.
CORRECTION: This article was updated at 1:08 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, to correct the date of the County Beach Commission meeting. The board meets Tuesday.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.