Business leaders keep close eye on waste water revenue options

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The city of Hattiesburg continues to search for forms of revenue to pay for the waste water treatment facility, and the business community is keeping a close eye on how that will affect them.

"We are following it closely because it certainly not only impacts the residents in Hattiesburg, but it impacts the business community," said Area Development Partnership president Chad Newell.

One of the first options of revenue was raising sewer rates, but the mayor vetoed that decision with an unsuccessful attempt by the council to override his veto. The current option is an additional one percent sales tax, which is currently in committee in the state legislature.

"We certainly encourage them [city leaders] to look at all applicable revenue sources so that we can really suitably maintain our infrastructure in the city," said Newell.

Although the mayor vetoed the council's decision to raise sewer rates, it is inevitable these rates will increase to some extent due to a prior ordinance, but that revenue will not go toward the waste water projects.

"For a small business who's not consuming very much water and does not have a large sewer discharge, then hopefully it would just be a minimal impact to their bottom line," said Newell. "But for large businesses, some of our largest employers in the area, this can have a real impact."

While set numbers are not available at this time, the mayor's engineer is looking at current volume of usage and conducting rate analyses for some of the area's largest employers. In the meantime, the mayor is working with state legislators on the sales tax referendum, which if approved by Hattiesburg voters, would bring in at least 10 million dollars to the city.

"These legislators are not raising our taxes," explained DuPree. "Them voting up there will give us the opportunity to raise our taxes or not raise our taxes…This is something for the fate of Hattiesburg, and it's very important."

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