Food And Dining Tax Rings Up Opposing Views

It's the price you pay for a lunch on the run, but if a new food and beverage tax passes next month in Ocean Springs, you'll need more change to cover that bill.

"When you have parks and green space around you, everything looks nicer, especially in a post-Katrina environment," Deb Halter said.

Halter would be glad to pay the tax.

"I see parks & recreation and public safety as being very non-optional, so I'm good with that." Halter said.

But Pat Taranto, owner of Taranto's Boiler, is leery of any new tax. He says the bridge celebration is one example of Ocean Springs' frivolous spending habits.

"Why spend so much money on entertainment, having a big party, when we're worried about parks for kids over here?" Taranto said.

He'd rather see all city taxpayers share the tab for parks and public safety, not just people who eat out.

If the tax is approved, buying three cookies at Subway will cost an extra two cents. While this difference is minimal, restaurant owners like Taranto worry about how the tax would impact customers' bigger bills.

"We depend a lot of times, especially this time of the year, on big groups for Christmas parties, functions like that. If I have a group of 20 and I'm battling with somebody in D'Iberville or Gautier over this, that 2 percent may mean something. It could either mean something for them not coming, or that my waitress staff won't get what they should get," Taranto said.

Taranto fears the tax could mean empty chairs for small restaurants in the city.

But Halter says she'd still fill up in Ocean Springs, no matter what the price.

"If you take that tax and translate it into what it costs in gasoline to go anywhere else, that argument falls apart," Halter said.

The Ocean Springs Recreation Department says without the extra funds, their current facilities will fall below national standards in about 10 to 15 years. Voters will have their opportunity to accept or reject the food and beverage tax on December 11th.