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WATER VALLEY – A special election is scheduled in the city on February 8 to allow voters to determine if a two percent tax will be levied on the sale of prepared foods to promote tourism, parks and recreation in the city. Aldermen voted unanimously during the city meeting on Dec. 7 to move forward with scheduling the election, authorizing City Attorney Daniel Martin to prepare a resolution in the North Mississippi Herald publicizing the referendum.
The vote is the latest step in a lengthy process that started in 2019 when the Water Valley Board of Aldermen requested that Representative Tommy Reynolds introduce a bill to impose an additional two percent tax on prepared food and drinks. Reynolds introduced House Bill 1606 during the 2020 Session, a local and private bill that was passed by the House and Senate and signed by the governor. The bills states that the two percent tax may be levied on the gross proceeds of sales of restaurants. Restaurants are defined as businesses where prepared food and beverages are sold for consumption, whether food is consumed on the premises or not.
In order for the special tax to be adopted, 60 percent of the voters who cast a ballot in the special election will have to vote in favor of it. Only registered voters who reside within the municipal limits of Water Valley will be allowed to vote.
Mayor Donald Gray has supported imposing the special tax, noting that many cities across the state have adopted a similar tax. During an earlier meeting, he estimated the cost of a special election will be approximately $1,000.
If adopted, the proceeds of the tax must be placed in a special fund separate from the city’s general fund and can only be spent to promote tourism, parks and recreation in the city.
Aldermen also heard a report from Water Valley Main Street Association Manager Alyssa Benedict during the Dec. 7 city meeting. Benedict shared that a final presentation is scheduled on January 7 to share final results from a strategic planning grant funded by the USDA.
Benedict also reported executive officers for Main Street were elected during a recent Main Street meeting. The officers will serve for one year and include Lee McMinn will serve as president, Travis Turner is vice-president, Cliff Johnson is recording secretary, Jaime Harker is treasurer, Nicole Folson is city represent and Becca Finley is Arts Council chair/director. Other Main Street board members include Tavi Towles, Hallie Thomas, Lauren Stokes, Ken Rogers and Bobby Turnage.
“Also since I was here last, I have been working on some grants,” Benedict added during her monthly report to aldermen. “We have narrowed it down to about five design projects that we want to work on for the next couple of years,” Benedict explained. “I will be discussing these with you as they come up.
“I have been applying for grants to help start raising funds for these projects. We got word during the last couple of weeks that we have received two of the community grants for the design projects totaling $2,500. Every little bit helps and it will all add up,” she explained.