Waynesboro voters pass 1% restaurant, bar and hotel tax

Updated: May. 15, 2019 at 2:16 PM CDT
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WAYNESBORO, MS (WDAM) - People in Waynesboro will soon be charged an extra penny on the dollar for all restaurant sales, beer and liquor sales and hotel stays.

This comes after residents approved a referendum to add a 1% sales tax Tuesday. Joseph Dunlap, Director of Economic Development for Waynesboro, said all the funds collected under the tax will go toward the promotion of tourism and improvements to parks and recreation within the city.

“We want it to be as painless as possible. Yes, everybody who eats a hamburger or a hotdog from a restaurant or has a glass of beer at the local bar or stays in a hotel or motel, they're going to pay a penny on the dollar. That's a small price to pay for us to grow this community,” said Dunlap.

Dunlap says this growth includes improving the city's parks and recreational facilities, such as adding a new sportsplex.

He said the city has not developed a sports complex concept in more than 40 years.

“What our plan is is to develop 8 baseball and softball fields, to develop 7 or more soccer fields, to develop walking tracks, to develop exercise areas, and possibly even a multipurpose building in the future,” said Dunlap.

We’re told 87% of residents who participated in the special election voted in favor of the tax. City Clerk Terri Seawright said 411 out of 2,987 registered voters in the city participated in the election. Seawright said that’s a low voter turnout compared to past special elections.

Here’s a breakdown of the returns from each ward:

  • Ward 1 -- 157 in favor; 13 opposed
  • Ward 2 -- 82 in favor; 10 opposed
  • Ward 3 -- 71 in favor; 11 opposed
  • Ward 4 -- 47 in favor; 16 opposed

“Voters have spoken loud and clear, and they anticipate us to be good stewards of the money, us being the City of Waynesboro, and that’s what we plan to do. We’ve heard the voters, and we’re going to move forward, and we’re going to make some good things happen,” said Dunlap.

Dunlap said he expect the tax to generate anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000 a year. However, the city is holding off on starting any of the projects right now.

“You never want to jump out there and start doing things before you got a little money in the bank. That would be irresponsible,” Dunlap said. “If the money goes into the special tax account that is for parks and recreation and tourism, that money will come out of that particular fund. We're not going to borrow from other funds to make this happen.”

According to the bill, the tax will run through July 1, 2023 before it can be repealed. Dunlap said there is not an exact date set for when the law will go into effect.

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