Gautier mayor on 2% tax: We've only got one shot at this

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Gautier leaders said they only have one shot at passing a two percent sales tax for hotels and restaurants, so they don't want to pull the trigger too soon. Originally, the tax vote was supposed to be on June 4th. Gautier city leaders now plan to use that ballot to test the waters instead.

The mayor looks at the city's parks and envisions what they could be if the funding was there. The city wants to build a baseball youth complex, football fields and more.

"I'd like to see a youth recreational center somewhere in the center part of town too," said Mayor Tommy Fortenberry. "We have complaints to our police department all the time about children playing basketball on the streets. Well, where else do you want them to play? We don't have a Sue Ellen gym. We don't have the gyms that the other cities have."

A two percent tax on hotels and restaurants would generate $340,000 a year to help construct recreational facilities. In June, a non binding referendum will gauge how many voters are on board.

"We use this as a poll and see what kind of response we get," Fortenberry said. "If we leave it on the ballot in June and we don't get 60 percent of the public's support, then that's our one shot at it. So I would like to see if we do get 60 percent or more then we'll be okay to go in August. If we don't, we need to educate the public more on what we're trying to do with this two percent."

The mayor said the city had too difficult a time getting this far to take such a big risk in June.

"There's been three times before this that we've sent this to the legislature and it's been turned down," said Mayor Fortenberry. "We have it approved now, so we want to make sure that we take this one shot and make sure it's the right thing to do."

As part of the campaign, Gautier recently sent mailers inside utility bills to try to gather support. The flyer reads "Gautier Forward: Investing in our children."

Gautier resident Marcus Pittman said he would vote "yes."

"Everybody needs stuff to do. And it would be nice to have some nice recreation facilities here."

However, Donald Worth said he will be checking the box marked "no."

"We don't have that many hotels and restaurants. I think they're going to have to find some other way to raise revenue."

Gautier leaders said it will cost the city $300 to hold the two percent tax vote on a different day than the general election in June.

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