Southaven Aldermen Approve Pennies For Parks

Southaven, Miss.

By:  Arthur Randallson, Editor

The Southaven Board of Aldermen voted Tuesday to approve restarting Pennies for Parks.  A one-percent tax on food and drink receipts in Southaven restaurants is scheduled to take effect on May 1, 2018.

Following the State Legislature’s passage of House Bill 1471, signed by Governor Phil Bryant on March 15, authority was given to Southaven to move forward with the city’s plans to collect the penny-per-dollar restaurant tax.  But, once again, the State Legislature added a repeal date.  This time, the repeal date is July 1, 2022.

“One of the most circulated pieces of incorrect information is that the people of Southaven voted for a repeal date for the tax initially in 2011.  This is incorrect.  The people voted in favor of this tax without a repeal date,” said Mayor Darren Musselwhite.

The funds raised by Pennies for Parks must be used for parks, recreation, and promoting tourism.

Musselwhite added, “This revenue is extremely beneficial for our city.  Whether or not a citizen directly uses parks, all citizens benefit from the economic benefits that parks promote.”

Charlie Hoots, the newest Southaven Alderman, agrees with the Mayor that the added money could be used for the greater good of the city.

“I would like to explore the idea of devoting some of the Pennies for Parks money to improve and revitalize our local neighborhood parks throughout the city;  they are in great need of attention,” Hoots said.

House Bill 1471 also includes a provision whereby 1,500 Southaven qualified voters could sign and file a petition seeking to prevent the tax from taking effect.  According to the bill, if that were to happen through an indirect referendum, then “the tax shall not be levied unless authorized by a sixty percent (60%) majority of the qualified electors of the City of Southaven, voting at an election to be called and held for that purpose.”

State Representative Steve Hopkins of Southaven (R-DeSoto, District 7) said “I would be happy if it did go to a vote in Southaven.”  In Jackson, he voted against House Bill 1471, because this bill did not automatically put it to a city-wide vote.  He supports what the people of Southaven want on Pennies for Parks, “whether for or against.”  “But, this legislation in Jackson should have been designed to put it to an automatic city-wide vote in the first place,” Hopkins commented.

Representative Hopkins said “forms are available at the Southaven City Clerk’s Office that citizens can pick up.”  There is a 21-day time limit to file a petition to put this tax to a city-wide vote, which means the 21-day time limit might officially be counting from the Southaven Board of Aldermen meeting on Tuesday evening, March 20.

Musselwhite wants to remind citizens of the benefits of the revenue:  “The resulting tourism revenue and economic development stabilizes property tax millage rates while providing additional revenue that may be used to improve all governmental services throughout the city.  Parks also provide great opportunities for youth and improve the recreational opportunities and quality of life for all citizens.”

The Mayor feels confident that the majority of citizens will recognize the benefits of the revenue, even if it comes to a vote.

Hoots agrees, “I think residents will be happy with the results if the city spends some of the money on their neighborhood parks.  Some think it’s just going to be spent on Snowden Grove and other sports complexes and that makes them feel left out, but I don’t think that’s the intent of the city.  We want everyone to feel included.”

The collected revenue would likely become available for the city’s use in July or August.