Increased city revenue possible if alcohol approved for vote

Published 9:06 am Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Increased city revenue possible if alcohol approved for vote.

Increased city revenue possible if alcohol approved for vote.

Roland Fandal, a resident of Poplarville, says he now has enough signatures on a petition to bring about a vote on beer and light wine sales in Poplarville.

Once verified, the petition is eligible to be presented to Board of Aldermen. Poplarville residents still would have to approve the sale of beer and light wine in a referendum before the sales become legal there.

What could happen, if Poplarville residents do approve the sales, may be similar to what happened in Picayune after the city recently approved the sale of liquor and wine by the glass in restaurants. Records show that Picayune has seen an increase in sales tax revenue directly attributable to those sales and cities receive a rebate from the state of a portion of sales taxes collected within the city limits and. Any increase in sales taxes would mean an increase in the amount of money from those taxes rebated to the city of Poplarville.

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Poplarville Mayor Brad Necaise appears neutral on the issue but stated he was concerned about community fears conflicting with facts.

“Fear is a big issue. I want fears separated from facts in this issue,” Necaise said. “We have looked into other towns which have successfully navigated this issue after it was voted in. I believe that with strong controls and restrictions in place, we could benefit from the revenue generated and maintain our safety standards within the community.

“I have not encountered opposition, personally, but I have seen some healthy discussion on social media sites. But of course, it is up to our citizens and the choices they might make at the polls. I have no inclination either way.”

Necaise said that the proposal would not be a silver bullet to fix all of the issues with needed revenue for the town, but it would be a way to load the gun and make an impact.

“An example would be that people that might purchase these products, could also be inclined to purchase other ancillary products at the point of sale,” he said.

Poplarville Police Chief Charles Fazende thinks the city will see an increase in tax revenues, and he doubts he will see a rise in DUIs.

“In Picayune, a typical concern was that DUI offenses would rise in communities that allowed alcohol sales (following Picayune’s recent approval of liquor by the drink). Honestly, I don’t know. On the one hand you look at the serious need for tax dollars.

“The city (Poplarville) has been operating on a low budget and if it (beer and light wine sales) gets passed that will be helpful. The thing that I believe because the board can control how they want this to affect the city should it be passed, they can decide just how they want it to impact the city” Fazende said.

“I think people automatically jump to the assumption that bars and package liquor stores will be on every corner when an issue like this comes up. They equate it with bad things happening. I look for them (bad things) to go down. The simple fact is, that whether they buy it here or buy it somewhere else, they are going to buy it. It makes it more dangerous to have them on the road drinking the alcoholic beverages on the way home,” Fazende said

Picayune’s experience with the recent passage of liquor and wine sales by the drink appears to support Fazende’s thinking on the subject of bad things.

“We can’t answer to the legalization of beer sales in 1976, but we can say that since we have recently became a resort area, we have not noticed an increase in either DUIs or alcohol related crashes,” said Jeremy Magri, assistant to the police chief. “The chief credits that to our strong campaign against drinking and driving. The Picayune Police Department’s strict enforcement of DUI laws has, according to state statistics, reduced DUIs in the last two years.”

Also supporting Fazende’s comments is the mayor of Corinth, a city in northeast Mississippi just south of the Tennessee state line that recently approved packaged liquor sales.

“This past year in 2012-2013, we had a decline of 40 percent of DUIs,” said Corinth Mayor Tommy Irwin.  “We have attributed that to people traveling to places where it is legal to purchase it and having a few nips prior to traveling home. Now they don’t have to do that.”

Irwin said the city also saw an increase in sales tax revenues. Corinth has seen an increase of $91 million in sales taxes, to which Irwin credits the liquor sales boom. Beer and light wine have been legal to sell there for a number of years.

Picayune saw additional revenue of $109,403 in 2012 and $119,924 in 2013, said Patsy Holman, director of Alcohol Beverage Control in the state Department of Revenue since the city began selling liquor and wine by the drink. There were nine active permits in 2013, she said.

Fazende and others believe that Poplarville will see an increase in sales taxes just with the legalization of the sell of beer and light wine in the city. The proof of that can only be learned if the voters do approve the sales in the referendum.