November 7, 2017 11:17:24 AM
Over the past few weeks, as we have watched county and city officials squabble over the details of a renewal of the two-percent restaurant tax, our attitude has devolved from disappointment to consternation and now borders on disgust.
Proceeds from the restaurant tax are set aside for tourism and are the sole funding source for the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau. A portion of the revenue, 15 percent under the existing agreement, goes to the LINK for community and economic development.
A month ago, CVB Director Nancy Carpenter and LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins approached the county supervisors and city council for what we expected to be a perfunctory matter, a joint resolution to approve renewal of the restaurant tax, which is scheduled to expire on July 1.
Then, the bickering began.
The city council requested major changes in the resolution, most notably, setting aside 20 percent of the revenue for the city's parks and recreation facilities and programs.
Its version also recommended changing the make-up of the CVB board to give city more representation than the county and well as lowering the threshold for restaurants required to collect the tax from $325,000 in annual sales to $100,000.
The supervisors were having none of it, voting by a 3-2 margin during their Monday meeting to adopt the resolution as it was presented to them by Carpenter and Higgins on Oct. 13.
Tonight, the city council is expected to approve its version of the resolution, which means there will be no joint resolution and, unless there is a compromise, no bill to send to the Legislature for approval. That would spell the end of the CVB, something we find unconscionable.
Board president Harry Sanders, along with supervisors Bill Brigham and John Holliman, expressed no interest in sitting down with the council in a joint session to find a solution.
We have a big problem with that.
To refuse to meet with the council is petty, childish and harmful to every resident in the county, no matter where they live. It's one thing if the city and county cannot agree on a path forward. It's an altogether different thing if they won't even try.
That does not mean we hold the city blameless. When the city met with the CVB and LINK to discuss the extension in June, they offered no major revisions to the existing tax. Yet within the last few weeks, the city has argued for major changes. Supervisors were right to feel they had been blind-sided.
We find the city's delay in making their intentions known as well as its ambiguity as to how the additional funds it has requested would be spent are unacceptable.
The county and city are now in the finger-pointing stage and seem to care more about who is to blame for the chaos than finding a path forward that benefits their constituents.
Lincoln noted more than 150 years ago that a house divided cannot stand.
We believe that to be true in Lowndes as well.
We urge the city council and supervisors to dispense with this childish bickering and come to the table -- and stay at the table -- until there is an amicable resolution.
That is the only acceptable outcome.
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