November 7, 2018 11:30:02 AM
Starkville will send a resolution to state legislators requesting increases to their sales taxes to help fund a new tournament-ready park after the measure gained unanimous approval from aldermen.
Aldermen voted on the resolution, which will add 1-percent each to the city's food and beverage and hotel taxes, after a presentation from Memphis architecture firm Dalhoff Thomas about the new facility. The resolution is requesting the tax for 20 years, as the city plans to tie it to bonding for the proposed park.
Starkville plans for the new park, located at Cornerstone Park on Highway 25 just south of the interchange with Highway 12, to host tournaments and regular recreation activities. The park is planned to have 12 baseball and softball fields, along with a 10,000 square foot multipurpose path, in its base design. It has options to add another championship field, a handicap-accessible field, an RV park, walking trails and more.
The base plan for the park, which includes 12 diamond fields, the multi-purpose facility and infrastructure work, will cost an estimated $18.5 million. Other options -- such as an RV park, walking trails and other amenities -- that could be included in initial construction, or added in later phases, pushes the estimated cost to more than $20 million.
Starkville is seeking the 1-percent tax increases, along with a request for a $1 million state appropriation that aldermen approved on Tuesday, to help fund the park. The resolution will go to the Legislature for approval in the next legislative session, which begins in January.
Should it pass through the 3A session and be signed into law, the matter will then go to a public referendum, where it will need 60 percent voter approval to pass.
Aldermen voiced support for the tax increase during Tuesday's meeting, saying they see it as a fair way to raise funds for the new facility, especially since tourists will share some of the burden.
"I don't think anybody up here has the willingness to tax the citizens of Starkville enough to raise $22 million to build a sports complex," said Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker. "... The beauty of this funding mechanism, in my mind, is that it doesn't shift all the burden on the citizens of Starkville. Yes, we're going to have to pay our share when we eat out and do that, but a lot of that is going to be the people who are already coming here for Mississippi State football games and whenever they're coming here for other events and buy something at the store -- that is going to help fund this park."
Ward 1 Aldermen Ben Carver said he thinks the extra cost that will come with the tax, if it's approved, is worth it for the new park. He said someone who spends $2,000 a year eating out would spend an extra $20 if the tax increase takes effect, and someone who spends $10,000 per year would spend an extra $100.
"You're not talking about an excessive amount, in my opinion," he said.
The city is also considering corporate sponsorship opportunities to help fund the park.
Mayor Lynn Spruill said Tuesday's vote was "outstanding" and the decision represents a major chance for Starkville's recreation to take a step forward.
"There will be so much more that we'll be talking about as we go through this," Spruill said. "There will be many opportunities -- we'll have many public hearings, many opportunities for people see what we're doing, talk about what we're doing and get on board with us, hopefully, and press this forward to make a huge difference in our community. It truly is a remarkable opportunity and I'm very excited."
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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