Como tourism tax committee listens to citizens’ suggestions 9/26/2014

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 26, 2014

Como tourism tax committee listens to citizens’ suggestions

By John Howell
Como’s Tourism Tax Committee members want, first of all, for the town’s citizens to get out on November 4 and vote to reinstate the tax on prepared food, beverage and lodging sales.

Seven Como citizens — Martha Frances Garrison, Glendora Dugger, Ernestine Bridgeforth, Bill Mays, Dorothy Wilbourn, Sharon Ward and Abner Young — were appointed by Como’s Mayor and Aldermen to act in an advisory capacity to help determine what people most want for their tourism tax dollars. They held a public forum Tuesday night and heard comments from a sprinkling of townspeople.

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Background on tax
Como voters had overwhelmingly approved the tourism tax in a 2010 referendum. However, the local and private bill passed in the state legislature authorizing the town to enact the tax included a sunset provision that allowed it to expire at the end of June, 2013.

During the 2013 legislative session, District 11 Representative Joe Gardner, original sponsor of the bill, died. By the time Lataisha Jackson was chosen as his replacement late that spring, the deadline for bill filing had expired. Last spring, legislators approved a new bill introduced by Jackson to allow another referendum on whether to bring back the tax.

That vote will come November 4, coinciding with the Congressional election. Voters in the Como precinct will go to their usual precinct in the Como library. Those among them who are Como residents will be encouraged to step next door to the senior citizens building to cast their ballots in the tourism tax referendum. The referendum requires approval of 60 percent of those who vote in that election.
Purpose of Tuesday forum
Como Mayor Everette Hill sat to the side of the library’s meeting room during Tuesday night’s forum.
“I want the committee to try to get input from the community on what they want to spend the money on,” Hill said.

The mayor and aldermen will make final decisions about tourism tax expenditures.

Young said that the town currently has on hand about $125,000 in tourism tax proceeds collected from 2011-2013.

“The law says the money can be spent to promote ‘tourism, parks and recreation in the Town of Como and immediate surrounding areas,’” said Young, reading from the 2014 bill.

Aldermen have been hesitant to authorize large expenditures from the fund, waiting for the formation of the committee and public input. They have authorized several smaller expenditures, including Main Street Association membership dues and, in March, the $5,000 in matching money to apply for the Mississippi Arts Commission grant that will help pay for the Thacker Mountain Radio broadcast from Main Street on October 11.

Variety of projects
During Tuesday night’s forum, citizens expressed wishes for items as small as trash receptacles for Main Street to long-range goals like a project to reduce flash flooding on the south end of Main Street.
 What about grants?

During discussion about renovation of Main Street sidewalks, Mayor Hill was asked if grant funding could be available to help pay for repaired sidewalks and other projects.

“Now we can apply for grants,” Hill replied. He said that Como is up-to-date with its annual audits, a prerequisite for most grant applications.

Como has applied for a grant to rehabilitate its sanitary sewer system, starting with its lagoon, Hill said.
Town officials are also awaiting word on another pending grant application for $150,000 to repair Elder Frank Ward Avenue, the mayor said.

Parking for Main Street
Parking for customers of Main Street businesses now overflows onto the green space next to the railroad tracks and on the east side of the tracks, one resident said.

Space on Elder Frank Ward Avenue might be utilized if security could be provided, another suggested.
“If the store owners wouldn’t park in front of their businesses, we wouldn’t have such a problem,” one said.

Main Street Green Space
A designated green space on Main Street’s north end was another suggestion. The space now catches much of the parking overflow.

“I don’t want to go against the businesses; it’s a fine balance act to do that,” one said, noting that it is Main Street business patrons who pay the tax.

Other suggestions: benches for Main Street, Main Street promotion, especially in Oxford (“Oxford people love Como,” one said.)

Also, renovation of the senior citizens building (periodically damaged by flooding on Main Street’s south end), illumination of the tile walkway in the patio garden area next to the library, among others.