Crystal Coast rakes in $2M in occupancy tax revenue in June, ending fiscal year at $11.5M

Beachgoers pack Atlantic Beach over Fourth of July weekend. The month prior, June 2021, broke the occupancy tax revenue record for that calendar month as tourism continues to soar in Carteret County. (Cheryl Burke photo)

EMERALD ISLE — Carteret County’s June occupancy tax numbers are in, and they shattered the collection record for the month by more than $600,000.

Revenue from the 6% tax on rental accommodations totaled $2,186,741, up 38% over the June 2020 total of $1,582,344.

In his monthly report for the Carteret County Beach Commission meeting set for Monday, County Shore Protection Office Manager Greg Rudolph wrote the soaring total is significant for a couple more reasons.

“It represents the 13th consecutive month for which the monthly record has been eclipsed, from June 2020 through June 2021, and counting,” he wrote. “In addition, for the first time ever we have a second $2 million month.”

Previously, the only $2 million month was July 2020, at $2.41 million, which is the record for now, though the July 2021 numbers should be in soon.

The record-breaking $11.5 million fiscal 2020-21 year ended June 30, and that total smashed the fiscal 2019-20 total by “an astonishing 58%,”Mr. Rudolph wrote in his memo to the beach commission.

The 2021 total for January through June stands at $5.09 million, more than half of the $9.04 million for the calendar year 2020. Officials expect July 2021 to be record-breaking, plus a busy fall season. The total for calendar year 2019 was $7.52 million.

Another interesting fact Mr. Rudolph reported is that during fiscal 2020-21, all three of the county’s occupancy tax sectors – hotel/motel, condominium/cottages and online – were up. The biggest increase was in the online sector, which was up by 187%.

The online sector is comprised of people who reserve accommodations through means other than rental agencies and direct bookings with hotels and motels. It includes private rental options as Vrbo and Airbnb, which until the last few years were not always captured by the occupancy tax collection process.

Mr. Rudolph said that increase is not surprising and can be attributed to “changing and evolving reservation options, technologies and patterns amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Still, revenues collected in 2020-21 in the hotel/motel sector were up 54% compared to 2019-20, and the condominium/cottages sector was up 34%.

The condominium/cottages sector led the way, as always, with tax collections totaling $6.25 million for 2020-21, but for the first time ever, the online sector vaulted into second place at $2.66 million. In 2019-20, the online total was $929,340.

The hotel/motel sector fell to the lowest total of the three at $2.63 million.

In late July, beach commission member Woody Warren of Emerald Isle, co-owner of Bluewater Realty, said based on advance bookings, it’s clear visitation in the county will finish strong through August, and the fall looks promising as well.

Mr. Rudolph, Mr. Warren and others have attributed the soaring tourism and occupancy tax collections to changing vacationing patterns and remote-working opportunities due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Carteret County beach nourishment reserve fund, which gets 50% of the occupancy tax revenue, stood at about $16.8 million at the end of fiscal 2020-21.

“We’re in a very good financial position to begin FY 2021-2022,” Mr. Rudolph reported to the commission, “considering that roughly three years ago, in September 2018, before hurricane Florence, our reserve value was just north of $18 million.”

Since then, in calendar years 2019, 2020 and 2021, the county has spent $85 million on three major beach nourishment projects.

Mr. Rudolph noted not all of the $16.8 million in the reserve fund can be attributed to the occupancy tax, as reimbursements and grants for beach projects are also housed in the reserve fund.

According to the county’s beach engineering firm, Moffatt & Nichol, Bogue Banks beaches lost about 3.2 million cubic yards of sand as a result of Florence and the shoreline on the island retreated an average of 21 feet. The beach nourishment projects since the storm covered virtually all of the island’s strand with close to 6 million cubic yards of sand.

Despite all that, Mr. Rudolph wrote in his report, “with great assistance from FEMA and the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality we find ourselves at almost the same reserve level three years after Florence.” 

 

Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.

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