Hattiesburg mayor encourages residents to lobby legislators for sales tax increase

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Taxpayers don't often race to the polls to raise their own taxes, but that's what happened in Jackson in January.

Now, Hattiesburg mayor Johnny DuPree encouraged the Pine Belt to lobby legislators to schedule a referendum for a sales tax increase in the wake of an ordinance where sewer rates could increase from $11.03 to more than $27 a month.

DuPree said he will veto that ordinance, and instead will push for a one percent sales tax increase to keep taxpayers from footing more than $27 a month on Thursday.

"Can you imagine how many people we would be talking about turning their water off if we continue to go up at this rate," said DuPree.

The sewer rate increase ordinance passed on a 3-2 vote. Some council members say the sewer rate increase would help fund a new land application process to treat the city's wastewater; however, Mayor DuPree said a once cent sales tax increase would provide taxpayers with more choices.

"It is the fairest tax because you make the decision, nobody is making the decision for you," said Dupree. "Because you decide what you buy."

The one percent sales tax increase would exclude groceries, prescriptions, items taxed less than seven percent, vehicles, restaurants, beverages, hotels, and packaged liquor.

DuPree said the increase would generate and extra 10 million dollars a year to help with the cost of sewer treatment and other projects.

Dupree also said that if state legislators allow the people of the city of Hattiesburg to vote on a one percent sales tax increase, projects such the one going on near Main Street could happen throughout the city of Hattiesburg.

"Now it's time that we've got to raise rates because we really have no choice," said DuPree.

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