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Restaurant tax: CVB poised to accept city terms on restaurant tax


Dewitt Hicks, left, and Robert Smith

Dewitt Hicks, left, and Robert Smith



Slim Smith



It appears The Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau board is prepared to accept the city's terms for an inter-local agreement on how to distribute 2-percent restaurant sales tax funds. 


CVB's board will hold a special-call meeting at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the bureau's headquarters to again discuss the city of Columbus' terms. 


A week ago, the CVB's board rejected the city's proposal, approving a counter-proposal that was flatly rejected by Columbus Mayor Robert Smith in a tersely-worded letter made public the following day. 


"I do think we'll accept the city's plan," CVB board president Dewitt Hicks told The Dispatch. "The only thing we really added was about the festival funding the city requested and that has to do with making sure the festivals go through the same approval process we already have as far as accounting for how the money is spent. Other than that, I don't think there are any changes from what the city gave us last week." 


The city's request includes earmarking $300,000 annually for baseball field improvements at Propst Park, $50,000 annually for the Terry Brown Amphitheater and $12,500 annually for four festivals/events -- Market Street, Juneteenth, Seventh Avenue Heritage Festival and Southside/Townsend Community Festival. 


The CVB's counter-proposal eliminated those festival funds -- stating the festivals could apply for funding under its already-existing grant plan -- while asking that the city deed over a 13,000 square feet (roughly one-third) of a lot on the site of the old Gilmer Hotel downtown and giving the CVB control over marketing and promotions at the amphitheater. 


Hicks said those counter-proposals will not be part of the proposal the CVB considers Wednesday, but it still will ask organizers for the four festivals to submit the bureau receipts each year. 


The mayor seemed agreeable to those terms. 


"I haven't talked to any of the (CVB) board members, but from what I am hearing, they are going to pass the agreement went sent them last week," Smith said this morning. "As far as the festivals going through their process, that's not a problem. That's just accountability." 


Smith said if the CVB approves the proposal, a copy of the agreement would be presented to the Mississippi attorney general's office, which has 30 days to rule on it. 


"But time is getting short, so we'll go ahead and take care of the resolution with the county for the tax and no wait for the AG's office to rule," Smith said. 


The city and Lowndes County Board of Supervisors are required to sign a joint resolution requesting a renewal of the current restaurant tax, which expires on June 30, to the state House and Senate Private and Local committees by its March 9 deadline for bills.


Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]



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