On November 6, in addition to casting their ballots for U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, state and regional judiciary, and school board races, Vaiden voters will vote whether or not to enact a two percent sales tax on prepared food and beverage. The revenue generated will be used to promote tourism and parks and recreation for the town.
Vaiden Mayor Mel Hawthorne has stated that not only will the new revenue help fund beautification projects in town to make it more welcoming for visitors, newcomers, and potential business development, it will improve the town’s parks and civic areas to provide recreational opportunities for citizens of all ages.
In addition, although the town must spend all revenue from the tourism tax on very specific items, current tax dollars budgeted to be used for these beautification projects, park maintenance, and recreational programs can be used in other areas like infrastructure – water/sewer and streets.
When Winona’s voters passed the city’s own two percent tourism tax in August 2016, I heard various opinions regarding the tax. Some were against the tax, claiming any new tax is unacceptable or questioned how the money will be spent. Others welcomed the idea of improving the city and its parks.
Some just didn’t fully understand what a tourism tax was or what a new revenue source could mean to the city and those living here.
So, Vaiden voters, allow me to cut through all the legal mumbo jumbo and break it down for you.
The amount of money the town collects from property taxes, business inventory taxes, and vehicle taxes is decreasing. Without hiking up property taxes and putting an added ad valorem tax burden on those currently paying ad valorem taxes, the town can’t afford to expand services and make needed improvements.
By instituting a tourism tax in the Town of Vaiden, two cents will be added to every dollar spent on prepared food and beverages. That is an additional 20 cents for a $10 meal, and this tax is not exclusive to Vaiden citizens. Those living outside the town limits and those just passing through will also be required to pay the two cents if they patronize a Vaiden restaurant or convenient store deli.
The money must be used – as is strictly mandated by the legislation allowing for the tax to be instituted in Vaiden – to promote tourism and parks and recreation.
In small communities like Vaiden, there is never enough money, especially in a rural community. The cost of doing business is steadily going up. And with aging infrastructure, it is hard to find the revenue without a grant or tapping once again into the town’s ad valorem tax base.
It is tough for me to criticize local leaders for potholes or discolored water or outdated technology when they are doing the best with what they have. This isn’t Jackson or Oxford or Southaven. Local budgets are stretched thin.
Even in rural areas, people want to drive down smooth streets or walk down unbroken sidewalks or have recreational opportunities for themselves and their families or know that their families will be taken care if there is an emergency. Those are things that elevate a community from just another small town to a place worth living.
But all those little ways to improve the quality of life in Vaiden isn’t cheap, and right now, Vaiden doesn’t have the revenue to be able to make necessary improvements or launch a new beautification project or expand current ones.
To help the town move forward, Vaiden’s leaders can do three things --keep things exactly the same and try to make improvements if and when money allows, jack up property taxes on those who pay property taxes, or they can take advantage of a revenue stream already instituted by so many of Mississippi’s municipalities, including Winona, Grenada, Greenwood, and Kosciusko.
I’m usually not a proponent of new taxes, but the two percent tourism tax is one of the fairest taxes a town can institute. Everyone, whether they live in Vaiden or not, who enjoys prepared food and beverage in the town will contribute to the tax – not just the already overburdened property owners.
The two percent tourism tax will be good for Vaiden. I’ve already seen the positive effects a tourism tax has had on Winona.
You want a more attractive community to draw new neighbors and customers and business developers with improved facilities and recreational activities for the entire family? This tourism tax is a good place to start.