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City Leaders Look at Special Sales Tax Option to Fund City Projects

By Evelina Burnett | Published 17 Jul 2013 10:10pm | comments

Mississippi city leaders say they plan to continue their efforts to get a “local option sales tax” approved by the state legislature. These leaders say that they need the ability to increase local sales taxes to pay for road and utility improvements and recreational projects.

Mississippi leaders are hoping to duplicate the success of Oklahoma City. After more than a decade in the economic doldrums, unemployment is down and building is up; the city has more than  a thousand housing units and a 1,000 hotel rooms under construction. Three-term Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett attributes part of this resurgence to voter-approved local sales tax increases.  

"With those monies, we built things like canals and convention centers, ball parks, quality of life amenities that we didn't have previously, and the results are staggering,and we're not only holding on to our talented young people today, but highly educated '20 somethings' from California and Texas and a lot of other places around the country are now moving to Oklahoma City," said Cornett.     

Mayor Cornett spoke to hundreds of Mississippi mayors, council members and other city officials in Biloxi this week for the annual Mississippi Municipal League conference. MML Director Shari Veazay says a local option sales tax will be one of the group’s priorities in the next legislative session.  

"This is something that we have been asking the legislature for, for over 20 years; for the cities to be able to go to their voters with a capital improvement project specified on the ballot and the voters vote to tax themselves to pay for it, it has to pass with a supermajority of 60 percent," says Veazay.       

Quitman Mayor Eddie Fulton says the local option sales tax would allow Mississippi’s natural assets to shine. In his small town, a 1 mill increase in property taxes generates $15,000 in revenue; a 1% increase in sales tax would generate 400,000.  

"With $400,000, you can finance a $2 million dollar recreational facility, you can have bike trails, you can have horse trails, you can have walking trails, you can do a lot of things with that," says Fulton.  

But would his citizens agree to this?  "In a heartbeat, the citizens want a quality of life, they want those things," he continues.  

A local option sales tax bill made it through a House committee earlier this year but died before reaching the floor.

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