Olive Branch residents on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to pass a one cent special tax on hotel and motel rooms to fund parks and recreation improvements.
The vote in the special election was 1,745 in favor and 164 against, or nearly 91 percent (90.6) in support which was far above the 60 percent approval needed for passage.
The city has 1,450 hotel rooms and officials estimate the tax will generate about $400,000 to $500,000 annually, of which 100 percent will be used to support parks and recreation. Only those who stay overnight at Olive Brach hotels will pay the tax.
Mayor Ken Adams said he and the board of aldermen appreciate the strong vote in favor of the city’s parks.
“We will work diligently to improve our parks to best serve the citizens,” Adams said. “100 percent of the hotel tax will go into our parks.”
Olive Branch has experienced tremendous population growth in recent years and demand for recreational opportunities has outstripped the city’s ability to accommodate the growing number of youth and adult sports participants.
In lobbying for the tax, Adams pointed out that on most nights the city has three matches on its soccer fields at a time and that the children have to play lengthwise because there isn’t enough space.
The city also has to use the basketball courts at the high school because it doesn’t have enough of it its own.
The money collected from the tax will be used to build additional soccer fields, a state-of-the-art indoor multi-purpose athletic facility, new parks in other locations in the city, and upgrades to existing park facilities and equipment.
Both Southaven and Horn Lake have similar taxes. Horn Lake charges a $2 fee per night on hotel room. Southaven levies a one percent on all prepared foods and has used the proceeds to expand its ballfields at Snowden Grove and other parks amenities.
The Olive Branch tax does have a repealer date of July 1, 2026 which would require approval by the Mississippi legislature to extend the tax.
Adams thanked all who voted in favor of the tax and volunteers of “People for Parks” who helped get the word out and campaigned for its passage.
“We are thankful for the citizens who worked diligently to pass this referendum,” Adams said.
The City of Hernando will also be holding a special election on a one cent “pennies for parks” tax in November.