The Spring Break debate

Dollars generated during Spring Break and funds spent by law enforcement

By Jerry Brown | jbrown@wmbb.com

Published 02/09 2016 11:00PM

Updated 02/10 2016 12:04PM

Spring Break 2016 is only three weeks away.  It means millions of dollars coming in for Panama City Beach. But, there is a cost.  Law enforcement -- shells out big money to keep everyone safe.  In this News 13 special report, The Spring Break Debate, a look at the economic impact this annual party on the beach means versus the strain on emergency services.
 
It doesn't matter which side of the debate you are on, most all agree that Spring Break has and has always been one of the major events here in Panama City Beach.  It attracts a lot of attention...both good and bad.
   
Panama City Beach City Manager Mario Gisbert is optimistic about this year.  He tells News 13, "we have had a lot of media attention.  I can tell you that talking with my police chief he will tell you that the last three or four years Spring Break has actually gotten better."
 
How much in revenue does Spring Break bring in to Panama City Beach?  Looking at the numbers, Spring Break last March brought in 1.1 million dollars ($1,163,664) in business tax receipts to Panama City Beach. But, this is only one percent of the overall financial impact of the period.  However, double the previous month. Gisbert says the workforce benefits.  He says, "that means to the bartender and the waitress that truly work Spring Break it is twice as much."
 
Revenue from the Tourist Development Council's bed tax income during spring break last year shows the TDC took in just over 2-million dollars ($2,012,722.60).  Those funds were to be used for marketing and beach refurbishment and cleanup.
 
Then, there is money going out with law enforcement providing safety for the community in a unique, combined effort. Gisbert tells us, "we will spend the same as we did last year until we find out that we don't need to."  That cost to the beach...just under 400-thousand dollars ($393,951).  Of that amount and Spring Break being classified as a special event, the Tourist Development Council was again able to provide financial assistance to offset that cost...$210,000 dollars.
 
Looking elsewhere at law enforcement, the Bay County Sheriff's Office put forth a beefed up force and paid out big dollars.  Major Tommy Ford says, you know.. we don't know at this point what the effect is going to be with the new ordinances.  So, we are planning for even more resources than we had last year."
 
For its part last year, the Bay County Sheriff's Office and jail costs combined came in with just over a half million dollars ($508,041) in expenses.  That amount also helped by about $210,000 dollars in assistance from the TDC.
   
Major Ford talked to News 13 about the strain on law enforcement.  He says, "you know, any flexibility we had for overtime and things like that we have lost that.  So, what we do...we go to the county commission and say this is what we have spent for Spring Break.  we dont go them before hand or  go to them at budget time and say, oh, we think we are going to need a half a million dollars.  You know, we would not be able to do the things that we do at Spring Break without the support of the county commission.  They have been good to us the past several years."
 
With the overall effort to protect the community, the dollars spent and the services provided for the party on the beach every spring...is the payoff worth it?  Major Ford says, "right now it is very serious and at times dangerous and it does not reflect the values of our community."
 
City Manager Gisbert looks at the money coming into the beach and says, "you said that the municipalities spend a million dollars and if the income to the workforce is a hundred million dollars...that's the difference."
 
You can take part in our web poll on the Spring Break debate at mypanhandle.com. You can also leave comments our our Facebook page.

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