Cooperation still key in rec complex talks

Published 9:15 am Wednesday, February 4, 2015

No doubt, Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. picked up a pointer or three about cooperation in his 25 years in the Mississippi Legislature. And he likely knows how things like tax hikes go over with the public.

On issues such as new jails, local and private bills to fund charities and recreational parks, Flaggs spoke multiple times in that quarter-century about public bodies being unified in support of any vehicle to raise taxes on homes or consumables to fund those items. A recent example was the last time a tax hike to pay for a sports complex was floated.

“We’ll wait and see what he sends us,” Flaggs said in a March 13, 2012 article in The Vicksburg Post following a public meeting with former Mayor Paul Winfield and others about a sales tax hike to build a rec center that ranged from ½ percent to 2 percent at various stages. “But he (Winfield) must remember two things. For it to go countywide requires a joint resolution from the city and the county, or a resolution from each board. If it is countywide, it will require a countywide referendum.”

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Skip over to Monday, and Flaggs and the current Board of Mayor and Aldermen find themselves on the other side of the rec tax question. This time, it’s not the number that moves. It’s the scope.

Two resolutions passed the city board, each needing state lawmakers’ approval to happen. One asks permission to levy up to a 2 percent food, beverage and hotel tax inside the city, pending a public vote. The other asks the same, but takes the concept countywide. Each also seeks permission to sign long-term property leases and lease-back options with private entities if one came forward to help develop a sports complex. City accountants said the added tax would generate between $1.137 million to $2.27 million a year.

It sounds tidy enough. But, as reports of Monday’s action noted, the Warren County Board of Supervisors’ stamp of approval would add some strength to any request to state Reps. Alex Monsour and Oscar Denton and state Sen. Briggs Hopson III. That would have to come fast, as any tax hike proposal to present to the voters must be passed by the end of the current session of the Legislature, which adjourns in March. So far, supervisors have placed a few officials on its payroll on a review committee and toured the possible Fisher Ferry site Friday with city officials, but that’s about the extent of their participation in a sports complex this year.

Nearly all places to eat a meal and rent a room are inside the city — but a handful of eateries operate in the county. In any case, there’s bound to be some intense phone calls and feelings in those industries directed at county supervisors, all of whom are up for re-election this year. Some will favor a tax hike; some might not. The easy take on Monday’s vote? They’ll need the county board’s names alongside theirs if they want the folks in Jackson to even consider adding theirs.