Tuesday night, Gautier residents voted down a referendum proposing a two percent tax on hotels, motels and prepared food. The additional tax revenue was to be used for recreation facilities within the city to improve Gautier's recreation program.
It needed 60 percent of the vote to pass and got 54 percent.
I have to say, as a journalist who usually tries to stay neutral on my subjects, I just don't understand it. Why would residents not want to improve their own city's recreation?
Many concerns and rumors were flying around in the months leading up to election.
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Some people thought the tax would be imposed on groceries. Not true.
Some people thought the additional revenue would be put into the general fund and not toward recreation. Also not true.
Here's the thing: Many cities along the Coast have a tax levy on either hotels or prepared food. So if a Gautier resident goes out to dinner in Ocean Springs, they are paying that tax toward another city's improvements.
I have my own thoughts on the issue of the tax itself. Residents won't be paying the tax on hotels because they already live in the city and if you can afford to go out to eat, what's an extra 50 cents or a dollar to go towards recreation?
The issue could have been the loan itself. If the referendum had passed, Gautier would have borrowed $5 million from the Mississippi Development Bank to create a multi-purpose center and park improvements. Maybe some residents didn't like the idea of borrowing that much money?
Even so, the city had a payment plan in mind already. The extra $340,000 generated each year would go toward paying back the loan, which would allow it to be paid off in less than 15 years. Most people's mortgages are much longer than that with a higher interest rate.
City officials have said at past meetings that the youth in Gautier are going to neighboring cities to play recreational sports. Why not keep them in town and bring other visitors to the city as well?
The residents have spoken. I just hope their speech in the future doesn't include complaining about the lack of recreation.
The city will now form a plan of action on how to improve recreation, and I hope they find a way to make their vision a reality.