February 8, 2018 10:46:53 AM
It took the Columbus City Council a matter of minutes to resolve the last apparent issue in a bid to extend the county wide 2-percent restaurant sales tax Wednesday.
In a special-call meeting at City Hall, the council unanimously approved an inter-local agreement with the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau on the distribution of revenue from the tax, repealed its previous resolutions for a bill to extend the tax and agreed to the terms of a resolution previously passed by the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors.
Councilmen held no discussion over three items on the agenda and adjourned the meeting after just five minutes. County supervisors are expected to take another vote on its resolution to pass it unanimously after supervisors Leroy Brooks and Jeff Smith voted against the resolution in hopes the county and city could agree on terms. In doing so, the city and council will send a required joint resolution to the Mississippi Legislature that has unanimous approval.
While the council's work was brief, settling the debate over the tax extension has been a four-month process among supervisors, council members and the CVB board of directors.
"I feel like all parties compromised, which is what we should have done from the start," said Ward 5 Councilman Stephen Jones. "Maybe it wouldn't have got this far. But now that we're here, I'm happy it's over with. Now we can move on."
The council's agreement on the inter-local agreement with the CVB came a day after the CVB board agreed to the terms of the inter-local deal. CVB had rejected the plan the city presented in two previous meetings.
Under the terms of the agreement, CVB will distribute up to $400,000 annually to the city -- including $300,000 for baseball field improvements at Propst Park, $50,000 toward the completion of the Sen. Terry Brown Amphitheater on The Island and another $50,000 distributed evenly ($12,500 each) among four designated festivals in the city.
The inter-local agreement will now go to the Mississippi Attorney General's office for approval.
In order for the tax, which raised about $2 million in Fiscal Year 2017, to continue, the Legislature must vote to extend it this session. Otherwise, it will expire June 30.
The joint resolution that will be sent to the Legislature has a few changes, including removing the "floor" or minimum amount food sales required for a business to be required to collect the tax, removing special designations for CVB board members (making all members at-large) and changing the amount of revenue directed to the Golden Triangle Development LINK from 15 percent to $250,000 annually.
The joint-resolution will go to the Legislature's Private and Local committees in the House and Senate. The deadline to submit the bill is March 9.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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