BILLS TO BENEFIT LOCAL ISSUES
By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – At least eight local and private bills that affect Northeast Mississippi communities were passed by the Mississippi Legislature during its recently completed session.
Local and private bills are legislation passed to deal with issues in specific municipalities or counties. In most cases, local and private bills receive little fanfare as they work their way through the legislative process. But they can be important for the communities they affect. The bills often allow municipalities or counties to raise taxes or impose additional fees.
For instance, one local and private bill passed by the 1996 Legislature allows Marshall County to levy up to 1 mill to help pay for its fairgrounds. Another lets Lafayette County transfer $50,000 per year to the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation to promote industrial development.
All of the local and privates affecting Northeast Mississippi were signed into law by Gov. Kirk Fordice.
Tax imposed for Marshall County fairgrounds
This bill gives the Marshall County Board of Supervisors authority to levy up to 1 mill of property taxes (about $75,000 per year) to help pay for the construction and additions at the fairgrounds.
The Marshall County Fairgrounds complex, which has been started from scratch in recent years, already has in place a multipurpose building and livestock facility. Other buildings, such as an outdoor arena and horse barns, are planned for the $2 million to $3 million facility.
Dr. David Childers, a member of the Fair Association Board of Directors, said the facility already is hosting agriculture and community events. A circus was held in the multipurpose building Monday night. The fairgrounds complex is being built through grant money established by the Legislature in 1995 and enhanced in 1996. Marshall County got $400,000 last year and is scheduled to get an additional $100,000 this year.
The three banks in Holly Springs also have loaned money to the project, and more than $100,000 has been raised from private sources.
The 1 mill tax levy that the Legislature approved can be used to pay back the loan over a 20-year period. A mill is a unit used to levy taxes. It is $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property.
Cost-of-living increases for Tupelo retirees
This bill allows the Tupelo City Council to provide cost-of-living increases for retired police officers and firefighters.
Previous to the passage of the bill, City Council members had to get a new local and private bill passed through the Legislature every time they wanted to increase the benefits for the retirees who have at least 20 years of service.
The bill also allows the city to levy property taxes to pay for the retirement benefits.
Additional court costs for Lee County
The Lee County Board of Supervisors can impose additional court fines to pay for a Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program for the Lee County Schools under this bill.
The additional court costs could be as much as $50 for people convicted of driving under the influence or for illegally selling or purchasing any type of alcoholic beverage. The supervisors could impose an additional $5 for those convicted of any misdemeanor, such as a traffic citation.
Gas and water system expansion in Holly Springs
This bill allows the city of Holly Springs to extend it water and gas service.
In the first phase of the expansion, the city hopes to add about 450 households and businesses in the Victoria and Red Banks areas west of Holly Springs.
Don Hollingsworth, public works director, said the expansion will serve areas that are growing because of their proximity to Memphis and DeSoto County.
He said the intent of the expansion is not to create additional revenue for the town. Unlike some municipalities, he said the Public Works Department does not finance other city services.
“We are providing a service,” Hollingsworth said. “We are putting up the infrastructure that will help the entire community grow.”
He said he hopes to start the expansion either this fall or next spring. A second phase of the expansion would take in the Mount Pleasant area northwest of Holly Springs.
Marshall County helps Head Start
This bill, which has been passed for several years by the state Legislature, allows Marshall County to provide $35,000 to the Head Start program, which provides preschool for disadvantaged children.
Lafayette County aids industrial development
The Lafayette County supervisors are able to provide $50,000 to the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation for industrial recruitment efforts through this legislation.
The Legislature has been passing this bill for Lafayette County for a number of years, said Chancery Clerk Bill Plunk.
New tax in West Pont
This bill allows the city of West Point to impose a sales tax of no more than 1 percent on sales from restaurants, hotels and motels.
The money would help with the construction of a multi-sports complex near West Point. It also would be used for the improvement of softball and baseball fields and resurfacing of tennis courts.
Additional court costs in Monroe County
This bill lets the Monroe County supervisors impose additional court costs of $1 on all misdemeanors.
The money would be used to pay the county’s share of participating in the Golden Triangle CrimeStoppers program. The program provides a cash reward for citizens who provide information to help solve crimes.