The conversation over a 1-percent sales tax increase on hotels and restaurants in the Hub City will continue, when the time is right.
Governor Phil Bryant signed Senate Bill 3069 late last week. The bill, introduced by Senator Billy Hudson (R-District 45), gives the City of Hattiesburg the approval to add sales tax, proposed at 1 percent, on hotels, motels and restaurants.
"We brought that request for legislation forward to try and continue the conversation about what we could do to help Southern Miss and their desire to renovate Reed Green Coliseum, but also meet some needs in neighborhoods in our own park system," said Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker Monday.
Barker said the 1-percent sales tax increase would be split between the University of Southern Mississippi and the Hub City's needs, with a focus in parks and recreation.
With the signature, the city can move forward on a local referendum, that would have to be approved by 60-precent of the voters. But, right now, Barker said the focus is on improving the Hattiesburg Public School District.
"We're obviously happy the conversation will continue; however, I think everyone's focus right now is on the bond renewal election that's coming up," said Barker. "It will give our schools the funds needed to make some capitol improvements and secure those campuses, so that is where everyone's focus is right now."
According to the city, approval of the bond renewal could give the district up to $22.5 million at no increase to the taxpayer. An election is set for May 22.
Hub City hotels and restaurants are already paying an additional 2-percent sales tax to help tourism, which was enacted in the 1990's.