COLLIER COUNTY, Fla - From Clam Pass to Wiggins Pass, the list of Collier County beach projects in need of dredging and funding is growing.
That's why the Collier Community Alliance, a group of citizens, is calling for an increase in the tourist tax. They say the money would generate an extra $3.5-$4 million to pay for it all, plus more.
The tourist dollars from Tourist Development Council are used to pay for marketing, fund museums and dredge our beaches. Vanderbilt Beach in North Naples is one of the most recent recipients of the funds.
But, raising the bed tax doesn't come without controversy. From La Playa to the Marriott on Marco Island, hotel owners say it would be detrimental to business.
Clam Pass in North Naples remains closed as neighbors continue to wait for a permit and the TDC funds to dredge it. That project, along with others is one of the main reasons a group of residents want to raise Collier County's Tourist Tax.
"We can use that money on beach renourishment, we can use it on dredging. We hvve Clam Pass, Doctors Pass, Wiggins Pass all in need of dredging," says Murray Hendel, chairman of the TDC and Collier Community Alliance.
Right now, Collier County's four percent bed tax is one of the lowest in the state. Local hotels say it gives them a competitive advantage against neighboring counties.
But Hendel and the Collier Community Alliance want to increase it to five percent and many hotel owners are adamantly opposed.
"It all adds up and that's why a tax is detrimental," says Ron Vuy of La Playa Beach Resort.
Phil McCabe, the owner of the Inn on Fifth says he'd support the increase, but not for beach renourishment. "The only way I could support the bed tax is if was fully dedicated to the branding and marketing and selling of Naples, Florida," says McCabe.
Murray says some money could go towards marketing, but his hope is that most of the extra funds would go to keeping our beaches pristine.
"We have a list of items that could be done with that money and how we would give that up to the hotels does not make sense to my organization," says Hendel. "Why should we as citizens of Collier County worry about a private enterprise making money?"
The Collier Community Alliance will present its recommendation to the Naples City Council Wednesday morning, but it will ultimately be up to the board of Collier County Commissioners to approve the increase with at least four votes in favor. They will also determine exactly where the money will go.