In 2020, residents in North Walton will have the option to vote to induct a 2% bed tax for areas north of the Choctawhatchee Bay

WALTON COUNTY — Areas north of the Choctawhatchee Bay could soon pocket a little extra cash.

Set for a 2020 ballot for North Walton residents is the introduction of a 2% bed tax. As a fee paid only by short-term visitors, bed taxes have raised billions in South Walton and help sparked the area's developmental boom.

If approved, collections north of the bay would only be used to promote North Walton, David Demarest, spokesman for the Tourist Development Council, wrote in an email.

"Extending the TDT tax to North Walton has the potential to greatly improve our economy by providing advertising and infrastructure dollars to our tourist industry," Demarest said. "Marketing our historic and eco-tourism assets can be a big boost to North Walton's economy."

With a 2% bed tax in North Walton, and a 5% tax already in effect for the south, collection rates for the county would still be lower than neighboring areas, he added.

According to Commissioner Danny Glidewell, whose district lies north of the bay, a bed tax is something residents have wanted for years.

He added that the tax would be a key in promoting the more rural areas and improving their infrastructures.

"Walton County has one of the highest rates of income disparity in the state," Glidewell wrote in an email. "(A bed tax) gives North Walton businesses more tools to narrow that gap and help everyone in Walton County participate in our overall prosperity."

Current bed-tax standings make it difficult for the TDC to spread money north. Demarest said this was because the tourist tax can only be used to promote areas where it's collected.

If passed, he believed it would make it "easier to justify promotion of the entire county together."

"Commissioners really want to shine a light on all the good that's happening in the north part of Walton County and help drive the economy there by boosting tourism," Demarest said.