- Success Story
- Alachua County, FL
How Alachua County tripled its tax revenue and eased local hospitality tensions with short-term rental management software
Alachua County’s mission is to serve the public with integrity, innovation, fiscal responsibility, and respect. With its mission top-of-mind, along with a limited budget and staffing resources, the county endeavored to boost tourist development and safety by ushering a budding crop of short-term rentals (STRs) into compliance. With the use of STR management software, Alachua County was able to identify all the STR accounts in the community, triple its tax revenue, and ease tensions within the local hospitality industry.
- From 20 to 464 identified short-term rental accounts
- Tripled tax revenue from year one to year three
- High ROI with a one-person team
- Eased tensions within the local hospitality industry
Weathering the short-term rental storm
Lee Tussinger has been working for the tax collector for 16 years, 10 of which he’s also handled STR tourist development. It’s essentially a one-person department. As sites like Airbnb and VRBO started to gain popularity, Lee noticed a spike in short-term vacation rentals in Alachua County. He went to great lengths to find hosts to bring into compliance but was largely unsuccessful. “It was hard for us to keep track of who we had contacted and who we hadn’t,” Lee said. His involvement in the Florida Tourist Development Tax Association (FTDTA) introduced him to the Granicus software that helps streamline STR management, including unit identification, monitoring, and communications.
Software, the savior
Alachua started with the address identification feature, which helped to automatically find the addresses — and owners — of all identifiable STRs in the county. After using that solution for several months, Alachua expanded its toolkit by adding the compliance monitoring feature, which informs property owners of their requirements, sends personalized, automatic communications regarding non-compliance, and provides weekly compliance reports to administrators.
The software gave Alachua County a clearer picture of tourism in the community. Instead of a spike in tourism during football season, which would be expected in a county that houses the University of Florida, the data showed a much more consistent, year-round STR trend.
The short-term rental rainbow
In the first year using STR management software, Alachua County collected $38,000 in tax revenue. The second year it collected over $70,000, and the third year it collected more than $223,000 — all with one staff member whose time was divided between STRs and other tax and code-related responsibilities. Without having to dedicate much time to this effort at all, the county was able to achieve a much higher STR compliance rate and more than triple its tax income.
Contrary to what is provided by most vacation rental companies, this compliance software offers a reliable, auditable means of tracking tax collections as stipulated by the statutory obligations of the county. Bringing STRs into compliance also assuaged tension between them and local hoteliers who were understandably frustrated by the lack of STR regulations, effectively leveling the playing field and creating more peace among local hospitality players.
Due, in part, to tax revenue collected through the software, Alachua County was able to fund the Cade Museum and an indoor sports complex at Celebration Pointe. Both attractions will contribute considerably to tourism in the county and will be huge boosters to the local economy.