Tuesday, voters in my city voted whether or not to add a 1% tax to restaurant food purchases. Sixty-seven percent of voters said yes. Doesn't sound like a big deal, does it? It's only a penny. What the media and mayor's office didn't tell people was that the total tax on restaurant food purchases would now be 10% with this new tax. TEN PERCENT!!!!
State tax here is seven percent. Not too bad when you compare it to the state just north of us. A few years ago, the county added a 2% tourism (restaurant and hotel) tax to help pay off and upkeep a local arena. Then a few months ago, our mayor decided to seek a 1% additional tax on food to help finance upgrades to the park system, add new ball fields and other amenities. The total bill for all the projects is around $35 million. Part of the cost of this improvement plan will be covered by a federal grant of $6 million to go towards building two storm shelters. The rest of the remaining $29 million will come from the new tax.
According to the mayor and city officials, the bulk of this new tax (and the tourism tax) is not suppose to be carried by the residents of this city but by the tourists who come for the different tournaments hosted here each year. Their reasoning that the people who come to these tournaments and events are going to pay the bulk of the cost doesn't make sense to me. The Dizzy Dean World Series does bring in $3-6 million dollars of revenue every year. Softball, baseball and soccer tournaments also bring in money spent in our restaurants and hotels. I can't see all of these events bringing in enough money to where the residents of our fair city are relieved of most of the tax burden. Some maybe, but not most.
Now, after all the extra softball, baseball, and soccer fields, tennis courts, dog park, spray park, skate park and $5 million senior citizen center are completed and paid for, do you think this tax will be taken off the books? NO!! It will be used to pay for maintenance and other improvements of the parks system and take "the burden off of property taxes."
I understand the need for upgrades to the parks. One of the concerns is building new ball fields to help accommodate all the kids who have signed up for softball and baseball. Right now, some of the T-ball players are having to start games at 9 p.m. because of the lack of available fields. We had that problem with Will when he played baseball but, thanks to the good Lord, we didn't have that problem this year with either of the boys. Officials have tossed around the idea of limiting the number of sign-ups but then decided that wasn't going to work.
The city also wants to stay competitive by continuing to host regional tournaments. Cities like Oxford, MS and Jackson, TN are expanding their parks so our leaders want to make sure we can compete on a level playing field with them and others. I understand all this. If it was a temporary tax, I may not mind as much. I just don't like having to keep paying and paying with no end in sight. When my family and I decide to eat out, I guess we will have to choose a neighboring city, one where it won't cost us a fortune in taxes.
It still has to pass the legislature in January. If it does, it should go into affect sometime in July, 2011.