Fulton voters to decide on proposed lodging tax

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Voters in Fulton will have more on their November ballots than U.S. House and judicial candidates.
They also will decide if they want to impose a tax of 3 percent on the cost of staying in a hotel or motel in the Itawamba County municipality.
During the final days of the 2010 session in April, legislation was approved to allow Fulton officials to set a vote on the issue. Gov. Haley Barbour recently signed the legislation into law.
A similar bill was passed and signed into law for the city of Byhalia in Marshall County. The maximum the tax can be in Byhalia is 2 percent. A spokeswoman in the Byhalia City Hall was not sure of the date for the election on imposing the hotel and motel tax there.
Fulton Mayor Paul Walker said it was decided to have the hotel-motel tax vote on the day of the regularly scheduled congressional and judicial elections in November to cut down on expense and to keep voters from having to making an extra trip to the polls.
“We are going to use the tax revenue for economic development projects,” he said.
The first project, Walker said, will be improvements to the natural gas lines in the city, especially to the downtown area and to the port. He said that will make Fulton more attractive as a location for a major industry.
The tax revenue also would be used “to enlarge the city park,” with plans calling for a soccer field and baseball fields for 9-11-year-olds.
The park expansion would benefit local youth sports, but also could be an economic boon. Youth tournaments that draw teams from out of town would benefit local merchants, such as restaurant owners and hotel and motel operators.
Walker said the tax would generate an estimated $55,000 to $66,000 per year.
He said the projects could be paid for several ways, such as the city deciding to pay for the project up front and the tax revenue being used to pay back the city.
Before the tax can be imposed in Byhalia or Fulton, it must be approved by 60 percent of those voting.