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WATER VALLEY – Voters in the city will have the opportunity to go to the polls Tuesday, June 6, to determine if a two-percent tourism tax should be levied on the sale of prepared food and drink sold inside the city limits.
Should the levy be approved by local voters, the proceeds from the tourism tax can be spent only to improve parks and recreation and to promote tourism in Water Valley.
Many of the surrounding municipalities, including Charleston, Oxford, Batesville and Grenada, have adopted a similar tax. Voters in the Town of Oakland also approved levying a tourism tax in their city last year with the state’s first-ever unanimous vote in favor of the tourism tax. Eighty-nine voters cast a ballot in Oakland’s special election, all in favor of levying the two-percent tax.
Oakland Mayor James Swearengen believes the tourism tax will be a strong asset for his community, with planned investment in recreational opportunities for youth topping the list priorities for the accumulating revenue.
“A splash pad, that is our number one priority,” Swearengen told the Herald.
He also had strong advice for Water Valley voters.
“If you want to help your community, you should be on board with it,” Swearengen stressed. “Small towns need this revenue stream even more than big towns Our tax base is leaner than the bigger towns. And if you go to almost any of our neighboring towns, you are going to pay an extra two cents on the dollar for a hamburger or drink. Our kids deserve investment in recreational activities as much as youth in other communities.”
Water Valley Mayor Donald Gray is advocating for voters to approve the tourism tax. Gray said that proceeds from the tax could fund a splash pad in Water Valley, as well as improvements at the city’s parks in addition to long-term projects such as a Rails to Trails pathway.
“The Crawford Sports Complex needs some updates and improvements. This facility brings in hundreds of visitors from all over the area, such as tournaments and spring and summer programs for our youth,” Gray said.
The June 6 vote will mark the second on the tourism tax. In March, 2022, voters rejected the tax. With 10 percent of the registered voters going to the polls, 117 (54.7%) voted for the tax and 97 against it, failing to meet the 60% threshold for the tax to pass.
The polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. The ballot will give voters two options, “FOR THE TAX” or “AGAINST THE TAX.” Voters who live in Ward One and Ward Two will vote at the depot located at 105 Railroad Street. Voters who live in Ward Three and Ward Four will vote at the fire and police department, located at 1001 Community Park Drive.