State Legislature Closes The Door On Columbus’s 2% Restaurant Tax

COLUMBUS and LOWNDES COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI) – The 2% restaurant tax will end July 1st, in Columbus and Lowndes County.

A bill to extend the tax died on today, March 28, in the state Legislature.

A last minute change in the state House requiring restaurants that make more than $325,000 in food sales annually to collect the tax, led to a debate between House and Senate members.

No agreement was reached.

Resolutions passed by the Columbus City Council and Lowndes County Board of Supervisors did not have a floor in the proposed legislation.

The result could have significant impacts.

“It’s going to be hard to even know what we can present to you in 2019,” says CVB Executive Director, Nancy Carpenter.

That’s what Carpenter is telling potential tourists and event organizers.

The death of the 2% restaurant tax kills the CVB’s only source of funding, which was about $2 million.

Carpenter says without that money; festivals, sporting events, recreation, and advertising could end.

“We’re positioning ourselves right now to survive and there are decisions to be made and it’s really too early to know what is being cut, but we are in a mode right now, that we are cutting back and we are doing so immediately.”

The Golden Triangle Development LINK will also be impacted.

It would have received $250,000 a year from the tax.

The agency uses some of the money for community events.

“That could be anything from the Chamber doing community events with Main Street, like Sounds of Summer, some of their educational seminars that they’re doing, some of their legislative seminars they’re doing. Those kind of things would fit under what we call community development,” says LINK CEO, Joe Max Higgins.

Economic development is the other area where the cash is used by the LINK.

“Our industry recruiting part could fit under the economic development stuff for industry and retail recruitment, so you know, for us to lose $250,000 in funding is pretty devastating. We’re going to have to sit down over the next few weeks and figure out budget cuts this FY we’re in and budget cuts next FY move in.”

These city leaders believe the whole community will feel the impact.

“I think all of us people that live in Lowndes County and Columbus, enjoy the benefits that we get from having these things and I think the adverse impact to both the city and the county are going to be felt,” says Higgins.

Nancy Carpenter tells WCBI the CVB’s planned Children’s Museum is off the table, for now.

State Representative Jeff Smith said on his Facebook account he expects the city to ask lawmakers in the next legislative session, which is in January 2019, to hold a referendum to bring back the tax.

A city spokesman has not been able to confirm that information.

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