It's time for the legislature to allow municipalities around Mississippi to utilize the option of a local sales tax to generate funds for infrastructure improvements. In fact, it's past time and the denial of the option for Mississippi's cities and towns is completely opposite of the way the same state leaders view Washington.
We hear all the time how Mississippi leaders object to federal mandates and restrictions passed down by the federal government.
“The fat cats in Washington shouldn't be telling us how to run our business here at home,” said (insert the state politician of your choice).
Yet those same state leaders believe they should have full control over our counties and municipalities. They refuse to provide them the same courtesy they seek from Washington.
It's a significant problem because rural counties such as Calhoun, with no municipality over 2,000 people, don't have the tax base to generate the kind of revenue from property taxes needed for necessary infrastructure improvements.
Tax Assessor Bill Malone told me approximately 40% of the county's 14,843 people are exempt from property taxes. That percentage is estimated to be even greater inside each of our town limits.
Take Bruce for example, where property values are stagnant at best, but sales tax returns are setting annual records. The local community should be allowed to benefit more from their own spending than simply filling state coffers.
Calhoun City Mayor J.R. Denton told me Monday that a one-mil property tax increase in Calhoun City would generate approximately $7,500. That doesn't get you very far when you're trying to fix a 50-year-old sewer line or pave a street. A 1% percent local sales tax could potentially generate 30 times that amount and hardly be noticed by shoppers in the store. I believe an extra penny for that daily Diet Coke, going for a local cause, would be more than acceptable.
Every municipality in this county has some desperate needs when it comes to their sewerage systems, but none have the resources to address the problem. They have to rely on grants, which are hard to come by, or million dollar loans which can bog down a small town's budget for years and years.
Whether it's a major sewerage improvement project, paving streets, replacing old sidewalks (which every one of our towns desperately need), purchasing a new fire truck required by the state to maintain current insurance ratings, improving public facilities such as our youth sports parks and libraries, or other badly needed equipment for routine maintenance, our local towns should have the option to ask the voters to approve a 1% sales tax increase.
If the local citizens vote for it, they get it.
I’m certainly not asking the legislature to raise our taxes, but citizens in every town should have the right to decide if they are willing to invest in themselves.
Email Joel McNeece at firstname.lastname@example.org & follow him on Twitter @joelmcneece