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Prepared food tax referendum fails in Moss Point

MOSS POINT, Miss. -- Residents in Moss Point voted against the proposed two percent food and beverage tax referendum projected to inject $400,000 in additional revenue to the city’s recreation department.

According to Mayor Mario King, only 937 people showed up to the polls to vote.

“It is very unfortunate, however, this is really telling about our community,” King said. “We only had 937 people to vote out of 10,386 eligible voters in our community. That is only nine percent voter turnout for the City of Moss Point today. These are things we need to overcome and really look at in our community.”

Unofficial poll numbers showed 49 percent, or 460 people were for the tax, while 51 percent or 475 people voted against the tax. For the tax to be approved, 60 percent of the vote in favor of the tax was needed.

King held two town halls at City Hall for people to come and ask any questions of the mayor and aldermen regarding the tax and how it would affect the city positively or negatively.

Monica Cooper, one of the strongest proponents for the referendum said she was disappointed in the outcome.

“It’s disheartening that the people of our City were unable to come to an agreement that truly represents the best interest of our children and to stimulate economic growth,” Cooper said. “It is my hope that our community continues to have the conversations collectively the brings us closer on how to resolve our community issues.”

According to the election commission, around 10,000 people are registered to vote in the City of Moss Point. The city has a total population of around 13,500.

Rep. Jeramey Anderson is one of various elected officials who expressed disappointment in the referendum not gaining the votes needed to improve recreation in the city which he was raised.

He released the following statement after the votes were tallied:

“While I’m disappointed that voters rejected a chance to better fund Moss Point’s parks and recreational facilities, I remain optimistic for the city’s future. I promise to work hard at the legislative level to bring more and better opportunities for our children. And, I welcome any ideas from supporters and opponents of this plan alike for how we can secure more money for parks and recreation. Though I understood some had reservations about the additional tax and did not see it as a favorable option. My response to that is that the alternative is our kids being idle, becoming easy prey to gangs and the criminal life which is simply unacceptable. I’d much rather see our children learning the values of hard work and team spirit on the athletic fields, than learning how to hustle and scam on the streets.”

Had the referendum passed, the state would have deposited money collected by the tax in a separate account earmarked specifically for tourism and recreation.

The city would have been tasked with creating an advisory board from each of the seven wards to oversee and make sure the money is being spent wisely.

Alderman Wayne Lennep was also a strong advocate for imploring people to vote in favor of the tax, but he also expressed disappointment in the outcome of the vote.

“This would have been good for Moss Point with minimal burden on our residents,” Lennep said. “Neighboring cities are already benefiting greatly from this and an additional $400,000 annually would make a big, almost immediate impact on a small town like Moss Point -- much of it paid by visitors. The revenue stream is out there, passing by us every day, yet now, we cannot capitalize off it."

Conversation on social media centered around if the funds would be used for their specific purposes, King allegedly receiving a raise and a lack of trust from the current administration.

Despite the referendum faltering, Lennep said he is pleased many voters voted in favor of the tax despite the negativity and false information spreading throughout social media.

“The vote does tell us that many wanted it, but we needed 60 percent -- those are the rules,” he said. “It also tells us that people would rather we continue to look for more areas to cut the budget and services, while we also continue to review our options for increasing revenue. Nothing is free.”

Pascagoula was the second Jackson County municipality to adopt the food and beverage tax when they did so in 2016. According to Asst. City Manager Frank Corder, the prepared food tax brought in close to $1 million in additional revenue.

Ocean Springs was the first Jackson County municipality to adopt the tax in 2007.

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