VCVB hoping Spanish exhibit helps it pay off state tax bill

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 27, 2000

Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau officials are hoping The Majesty of Spain exhibit in Jackson next year will help pay off the $70,000 the agency owes the Mississippi Tax Commission.

The state tax commission collects for the VCVB a 1 percent sales tax on all motel and bed and breakfast bills and on larger restaurants and lounge tabs.

The commission this month notified the VCVB that an error five years ago at the state offices led to a shortfall in the amount the state kept before writing a check to the local agency. In legislation that went into effect in 1996, the state is supposed to deduct a 3 percent commission.

When the VCVB board learned of the problem, the Tax Commission said it was due $70,081.80. The commission also proposed the back amount, covering three years instead of the mistaken five, be paid back by the end of the state’s current fiscal year, June 30.

VCVB executive director Lenore Barkley said she is hoping the exhibit of Spanish artwork, in Jackson from March 1 through Sept. 3, will help pay off the debt.

Organizers have said they expect up to a half-million people to tour the exhibit at the Mississippi Arts Pavilion in Jackson.

Two previous international exhibits, the Palaces of St. Petersburg in 1996 and the Splendors of Versailles in 1998, drew a combined 850,000, and tourism officials in Vicksburg and Warren County reported increased business during those times.

Not banking on the exhibit to bail out the VCVB though, Barkley said, Vicksburg attorney Robert Bailess, a member of the VCVB board, talked with state tax chief Ed Buelow, a Warren County resident and former state legislator, to see if an extended payment plan could be worked out.

“After that, three or four other bureaus met with a representative of the commission and, as a result, they got 20 months and we got 24 months,” she said.

Barkley said she has not received written confirmation of the arrangement from the commission, but assumes the deal took effect with the check the bureau received this month.

“It showed the 3 percent that was supposed to be taken out and $2,920.08 additional taken out,” she said, explaining the latter amount is 1/24th of the more than $70,000 the commission asked to be reimbursed.

The check received in November was for $64,943.56, compared with one for $70,693.08 in the month a year earlier.

The November check to VCVB this year would have been about the same as for a year earlier, Barkley said, if the handling fee and payment had not been subtracted.

Just where the money will come from, what will get short changed, in the 2001 budget remains undecided, Barkley said.

The board adopted the 2001 budget at its October meeting.

Barkley said the figures indicate her agency will have about $5,000 less to spend each month next year.

“I guess it will have to come out of print advertising,” she said.

It is impossible to cut the money from salaries, travel and advertising, she said.

For the 2001 budget year, her office had proposed spending $211,419 to purchase ads in such magazines as Southern Living, Midwest Living and Southern Traveler.