By JACK WEATHERLY
Supporters of a bill that would have created community improvement districts in cities across Mississippi rallied at the state Capitol Tuesday to urge Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves to reconsider the measure.
Senate Bill 3045 died in the Senate Finance Committee because it was not called up for a vote.
Reeves, who is president of the Senate, could have made that happen, proponents said, but for the fourth time Reeves did not.
Leland Speed, longtime business and civic leader, spoke on the Capitol steps, saying he was confounded by Reeves’ response to the proposed legislation.
He said that he had “begged” Reeves to support it, but that Reeves never said no nor gave a reason.
Reeves sent word to the Mississippi Business Journal via email from his communications director, Laura Hipp, as follows:
“The Lieutenant Governor personally knows people who are living on a fixed income and can’t afford to pay 6 more mills because they already live in one of the highest-taxed jurisdictions in Mississippi. Some rich people may be fine paying more taxes, but they have the ability to voluntarily contribute to their homeowners’ association right now.
“Most conservative Republicans in the Senate oppose raising people’s taxes and turning over tax dollars to unelected representatives. He applauds those who contribute to homeowners’ associations to make their community a better place.
“Also, the bill did not die in committee last year. It died on the calendar because no one from the Jackson delegation would come to the podium to defend it.”
Twenty-four representatives of neighborhood associations signed a letter to Reeves dated March 8.
The letter was signed by Ben Allen, president of Jackson Downtown Partners, a business improvement district, and Speed, listed as chairman emeritus of the group.
“There are hundreds of [CIDs], allowing neighborhoods and communities within a city to voluntarily assess themselves with a ‘fee’ for the sole purpose of improving the quality of life, protect property values and generally improve neighborhoods,” the letter stated.
Speed said he is “very confident” that there are votes in the associations to muster a 60 percent approval, or whatever the “super-majority” may be.
Ward 7 Councilwoman Virgi Lindsay, who attended the press conference, said afterward that the legislation is a “vehicle for empowering neighborhoods to help themselves.”
The bill was sponsored by all senators in the metro Jackson area.
Sen. J. Walter Michel told the Journal in a phone interview on Wednesday that the Local and Private Committee, of which he is a member, approved a number of local sales tax increases, including one in Vaiden, which is on Interstate 55 and benefits from travelers.
The CID bill also sailed through the committee, he said. The major difference between a CID levy and a sales tax would be that a property tax or fee is imposed only on those who live in and own property in the district formed by residents, he said.
Downtown Jackson Partners, a business improvement district, was proposed in 1993, but it took three years to get legislation for that approved, Allen said.
“Today, the downtown business improvement district is statistically the safest area in the state of Mississippi,” he said.
In 1996, 72 percent of downtown property owners voted for creation of the district, Allen said.
The latest renewal of the district, in 2016, got a 96.5 percent vote to continue the assessment, with a 10 percent increase, he said.
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