Mayor Lynn Spruill talks about the 1-percent tourism sales tax referendum during Tuesday's board meeting. The city has set the referendum, and a special election to fill the Ward 5 seat, for May 30. Photo by: Alex Holloway/Dispatch Staff
April 17, 2019 10:26:02 AM
Starkville will hold two special elections on May 30 to determine if the city will implement a 1-percent increase to its tourism sales tax and to fill the now-vacant Ward 5 alderman seat.
The city must replace Ward 5 Alderman Patrick Miller, who resigned from his seat on the board Monday to take a job in Biloxi. Qualifications for the election, through the city clerk's office, are open today through May 8. Candidates must register as independents for the election.
While that special election will only be open to voters in Ward 5, the 1-percent tax referendum will be a citywide vote. Starkville is looking to add to its 2-percent restaurant and hotel/motel sales tax to build a new tournament-ready baseball and recreation facility at Cornerstone Park on Highway 25. The 1-percent tax funding would also be used for improvements at Starkville's existing parks.
Sixty percent of voters must approve the tax for it to take effect.
Registration for the election is open through 5 p.m. on April 30 and absentee ballots will be available beginning on May 10.
Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver said he supports the tax. Though he's typically more conservative-minded, he said, the tax will be shared not only among citizens, but visitors, and represents what he thinks is the best chance to improve Starkville's parks.
"It's not just 23,000 or 24,000 people that are going to be paying this," Carver said. "It's anyone that comes to this town and has a meal. Any Super Bulldog Weekend-type event at Mississippi State, any athletic function. From a tax-sharing standpoint, it's one of those that we'll utilize for anyone that comes to this town."
Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk said she wanted voters to keep in mind that the tax is not only for Cornerstone Park.
"It's easy to get distracted by that shiny new thing, the Cornerstone Park with the baseball complex, but it's important to note that this plan actually addresses each of our parks throughout the city and will hopefully provide us more opportunities, places for our kids to go and things for them to do that are not currently available to them," Sistrunk said.
Mayor Lynn Spruill said she plans to get out and push for the 1-percent tax in the time leading up to the election.
"I'm going to sleep, eat, breathe this for the next 45 days," she said. "That's the time we have available to us to get this 60 percent community support who will then get out and make it happen."
Aldermen set the date for the elections during Tuesday's board meeting. The items, which were originally included as part of the board's regular agenda, were added to the consent agenda at the table and approved, along with other housekeeping items, without a vote on them individually.
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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