September 11, 2012 10:00:10 AM
Jeff Clark - firstname.lastname@example.org
WEST POINT -- It's not the quantity of the voters that counted, but what the ones who voted had to say.
Voters in West Point passed a resolution to allow the city to levy a one-percent tourism sales tax, bringing the sales tax to nine percent on restaurant, liquor store and hotel/motel purchases. The new one-percent tax will go to specific projects for the West Point/Clay County Community Growth Alliance.
The "yes votes" came to 60.6 percent. If five fewer "yes'' votes had been cast, the measure would have failed to meet the 60-percent margin required by law.
"We had 373 votes for the new tax and 242 votes against it," city administrator Randy Jones said. "This gave us more than the 60 percent margin of favorable votes needed for the tax to pass. Although this is only about nine percent of the registered voters in West Point, getting 60 percent of the votes on anything is pretty amazing. Politicians can't even get 60 percent of the vote."
Jones said the tax will be applied to the Growth Alliance under "strict guidelines" for its usage.
Growth Alliance Director Cynthia Wilson said the money will help in many areas.
"The fact that it passed means that we will be able to market what we have in West Point and Clay County," Wilson said. "Our funds are tight with the (Columbus-Lowndes Economic Development Link) and this will definitely help. It will allow us to do some improvements in our downtown area and implement some of the other suggestions that were made during the impact study of 2010."
In Columbus, a two-percent tax is applied to restaurants with more than $325,000 in gross sales. The restaurant tax is used to fund the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau. Another two-percent tax is levied on hotels and motels. The money collected from the hotel tax goes into the city's general fund where it is used to fund the Trotter Convention Center.
"We already have a one-percent hotel and restaurant tax," Jones said. "The tax is being used to pay off the bonds on the Jesse Harmon SportsPlex. The bond doesn't mature until 2016. This tax came into existence in 1998."
Jones said the new tax goes into effect Oct. 15.