From the few, comes a major step forward for our community

Published 10:43pm Saturday, July 12, 2014

The miniscule turnout for Tuesday’s election – only about 5 percent of the city’s registered voters – doesn’t change the fact that Brookhaven’s electorate has taken the giant step of approving a 2 percent tourism and economic development tax.

The tax, which will only be levied on overnight stays at hotels, motels and beds and breakfasts with six or more room rentals, will now go into effect July 15, according to City Clerk Mike Jinks.

With less than 350 votes cast Tuesday, the tax passed with a 73 percent margin, well over the required 60 percent plus one.

City officials estimate the tax will generate between $100,000 to $120,000 annually for the city. That means Brookhaven now can have a budget for promoting tourism, such as space at the arena and new FEMA building, festivals, tournaments and other events. Besides that, officials hope to enhance “quality of life” infrastructure such as bike paths and walking trails.

Tourism is big business in other parts of Mississippi, largely due to cities in those areas having a tax like the one Brookhaven just approved. According to Mayor Joe Cox, Natchez has had a similar tax since 1973.

Now that Brookhaven’s tax has been approved, it will be up to our board of aldermen to put in place a structure to manage the use of the funds. Other towns have established tourism committees or boards and a set of guidelines for what will and won’t qualify for funding from the tourism budget.

“We got it, and now we’ve got to get it to work …,” Mayor Cox noted Tuesday after the tax’s passage.

He’s absolutely right. With the tax taking effect this week, the aldermen must now move promptly to set the necessary structure in motion to manage the revenue and help our city take the next step – making the most of this opportunity.