City hires lobbyist

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 25, 2015

City hires lobbyist to guide efforts to keep tourism tax

By John Howell

Batesville aldermen voted unanimously to hire lobbyist Ben Thompson to help pass legislation to extend the city’s tourism and lodging tax.

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The three percent tax on sales of prepared food and beverages and a tax on hotel/motel lodging generates about $1.2 million annually for the city. Proceeds are used to pay off the bonds that financed construction of the Batesville Civic Center. 

With the current legislation authorizing the city’s Tourism and Economic Development Tax due to sunset in 2017 and Civic Center bond maturing in 2020, city leaders are anxious to get another local and private bill passed during the legislature’s 2016 session to keep the tax in effect.

Aldermen voted to pay Thompson $30,000 to coordinate the lobbying efforts for the tourism tax renewal as well as assistance on other legislative matters that will affect the city.

“I wouldn’t want to take a chance of that (losing the tourism tax),” Alderman Stan Harrison said.

“That’s too important,” Alderman Ted Stewart said.

In other city business:

• Aldermen took under advisement a Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) offer of $40,000 for a lot between the Batesville Public Library and MDOT’s existing property near Highway 51 North;

• City officials also took under advisement a homeowner’s request to assist with plumbing and home repair expenses she believed to have been caused by a faulty check valve on the home’s water meter. Joyce Williams of Lakewood Drive presented bills totalling $438 for plumbing labor and sheetrock repair she incurred. 

When a city water department employee removed the check valve from the meter, the problem, including a tell-tale noise that accompanied it, disappeared, Williams told the mayor and aldermen;

• Aldermen’s salaries will increase by $200 monthly starting October 1. Minutes of the August 18 board of mayor and aldermen meeting stated that the increases were approved by unanimous vote along with specific hourly increases from 50 cents to $2 for nine city employees and one increase of $150 per month for another.

Ward aldermen will increase by $200 from $1,398.04 and the alderman-at-large will increase by $200 from $1,525.30, according to figures provided by the city’s payroll clerk. The mayor’s salary remains unchanged at about $56,000 annually.