Horn Lake and Southaven are asking the Mississippi legislature to to pass bills that will allow the two cities to extend their hotel and tourism taxes.
Southaven Board of Alderman on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution calling on lawmakers to extend the one cent tax on prepared foods and beverages for an additional ten years.
Voters first approved the “Penny for the Parks” tax back in 2011 with over 76 percent support, specifically to enhance the city’s parks. The tax had a three year expiration date and was renewed by the legislature in 2014 for another three years. In 2017, the bill to extend the tax ran into opposition from a handful of local lawmakers and failed to pass. However, the tax was re-imposed again in 2018 and is set to expire on July 1, 2022.
Mayor Darren Musselwhite listed several improvements the city has made to its parks using the revenue from the tax including the Field of Dreams playground, expansions to soccer fields and tennis courts, Greenbrook indoor training facility, and the paving of the Springfest parking lot.
“The City of Southaven has been the model,” Musselwhite said. “Nobody has used this tax better than the City of Southaven. It has been incredible since 2014 the things the city has done with the tax revenue.”
Musselwhite said many of the recent economic development projects in Southaven such as Silo Square would not have happened without the city’s strong investment in its parks.
“Specifically Brian Hill,” Musselwhite said. “He just invested over $200 million in Silo Square and that is absolutely soaring right now. At many groundbreaking events the words have come directly out of his mouth that without the Board of Aldermen and the city administration’s commitment to fund the parks, that Silo Square would never exist.”
Ward 3 Alderman William Jerome asked why the city is asking for 10 years instead of the customary four years.
“Why is it different from what we have asked for in the past?” Jerome said.
Musselwhite said since the legislature passed the extension the last time, other cities have asked for and been granted longer expiration dates because it helps with long-term planning.
“When you have an annual amount of revenue and you do big projects like we’ve done - soccer, tennis, those kinds of things - it takes a larger amount of revenue,” Musselwhite said. “If you have a guaranteed stream of revenue that is longer than four years, it allows you more flexibility in getting big projects done quicker.”
Musselwhite said the city is asking for a ten year extension, but will take whatever the legislature is willing to grant them.
“If you read the resolution, it says basically we are asking for 2032,” Musselwhite said. “But we are at the mercy of the state legislature and whatever they give us, we are agreeable to whatever term they give.”
The tax brings in close to $2 million a year for Southaven.
“We have plans to do many more things in our parks,” Musselwhite said. “Parks have proven to not only be a quality of life value for our citizens, but our parks have become an economic driver for the city.”
Horn Lake is also asking the legislature to extend its hotel/motel tax for a period of ten years. Horn Lake collects $2 per night per hotel room. The tax generated about $345,000 for Horn Lake in 2021.
Mayor Allen Latimer said the tax is a very important stream of revenue that helps them improve the quality of life in Horn Lake.
“This is very important to us,” Latimer said. “It brings in over $300,000 a year. To a city with out budget, that’s a lot.”
Latimer said the city gave $75,000 from those proceeds to the DeSoto Dream Center, which provides food, clothing, and medical assistance to low income families in Horn Lake. The city also recently gave $18,000 to help support Heartland Hands, the area’s largest food bank, to pay utilities.
“We use it to support things like the Dream Center and anything that builds up the community,” Latimer said.
Olive Branch also plans to ask the legislature to support a one percent hotel tax in the upcoming session, which could generate about $600,000 a year for parks improvements.