Stepping Up In the Spirit of the Holiday Season

Call it a $1.2 million Christmas present, from one Beach community to another.

During an informal discussion of the staggering costs that other Bay County municipalities face as they struggle to recover from Hurricane Michael, Panama City Beach Mayor Mike Thomas on Thursday turned to his fellow Beach councilmen and suggested a unique act of generosity to help the residents of Mexico Beach.

Bay County officials are working to fast-track a provision to impose an emergency ½-cent sales tax that will generate additional revenue to help with storm recovery efforts. Should the Florida Legislature grant the county authority to proceed with the plan, and local governments ratify it, officials estimate that Panama City Beach would receive an additional $1.2 million in revenues. But since the revenue distribution is based on population size, Mexico Beach would get only $106,000, said Beach spokeswoman Debbie Ward.

Thomas told his colleagues that since Panama City Beach suffered relatively little storm damage, and actually benefited economically from the influx of first responders and contractors to the city’s hotels and condominiums, it would be fitting to donate the additional sales tax revenue to help storm-ravaged Mexico Beach. Noting that Christmas is just days away, Thomas said, “Mexico Beach needs a present.”

While the council took no official vote on the matter, the three councilmen in attendance — Paul Casto, Phil Chester and Geoff McConnell (with Hector Solis absent) — agreed with Thomas’ proposal.

“Money is going to be a big issue for the county and cities,” said Casto, who volunteered to serve as the city’s representative on Bay County’s newly formed Long-Term Disaster Recovery Task Force.

“This should show that we (in Panama City Beach) are team players,” Thomas said.

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