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County Tourism Tax Proceeds to Boost Local Cultural Activities

Tax Designed to Support Activities Drawing Visitors to Polk

More than $466,000 will flow to two Lake Wales cultural organizations from Polk County "bed tax" designed to promote overnight stays in area hotels, according to Kris Keprios, Senior Tourism Sales and Marketing Manager of Polk County's Tourism and Sports Marketing Division.

"The Arts, Culture and Heritage sponsorships assist arts organizations by stretching their marketing dollars so they can draw more visitors to their events from outside of the county," Keprios said in a statement this week.

The Polk County Board of County Commissioners approved a $278,000 agreement with Bok Tower Gardens to promote four events in fiscal year 2022-23: Spring Bloom, Holidays at Bok Tower Gardens, Go Wild (Fall 2022), and Camp Bok (Summer 2023). Additionally, the board approved $188,625 to the Lake Wales Arts Council to promote three events.

They also approved an $107,540 contribution to the Polk Museum of Art for two events, including the annual Mayfaire by the Lake Festival.

"Our mission is always to put heads in beds and create significant economic impact throughout the county, and these funds are used to help arts organizations attempt to do just that through the events they run," Keprios said.

Altogether the BoCC has approved more than one-half million dollars as part of the latest round of Arts, Culture and Heritage (ACH) sponsorships through the Tourist Development Tax.

"The Polk County Board of County Commissioners have always shown their support of arts and culture organizations, and the ACH program is another example of their commitment," Keprios said. "The goal of this program has always been to create overnight stays, help these events enhance a visitor's stay and create additional spending throughout the county."

Sponsorship funding is secured via an application process and recipients are required to match the county-provided funding. The sponsorships are different from a grant in that sponsorship recipients don't receive the funds upfront. Instead, they get reimbursed after they have met the sponsorship's guidelines.

Polk County's Tourism and Sports Marketing Division, through the Tourist Development Tax, oversees the annual Arts, Culture and Heritage budget. The Tourist Development Tax rate in Polk County is set at 5% and is charged on any overnight stay of six months or less in a hotel, motel, vacation rental home, Air BnB or RV parks and campgrounds.


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