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Benefits of voting yes

By Brad Necaise

Guest Columnist 

 

The upcoming beer and wine referendum, which will be brought before voters in Poplarville Tuesday, March 25, undeniably has a lot of fear around its approval.

Unfortunately, much of the fear is driven by unfounded and unsubstantiated communications made in print and posted on popular social media websites. Comments and quotes suggest; passing the referendum will not create a substantial increase in tax base revenues; alcohol sales will cause an increase in local police department workload resulting in a loss of any tax gains made by sales of such products; Poplarville has operated fine without revenue from beer and wine sales; bars and night clubs will line Main Street and that beer and wine has caused too much hurt to families through addiction and drunk driving.

The financial component can’t be argued. One thing a business and municipality have in common is the requirement of a financially sustainable model; there has to be more money coming in than going out. In the first three months following June’s general election, I as the new mayor, along with the board, were charged with balancing the budget for fiscal year ending September 30, 2014. The proposed budget was $45,000 dollars in the red.

In order to balance the budget we were forced to lay off a police officer. This coming September 30, we will again balance the 2015 city budget. We hope to be operating in the black, but we must face reality. If we aren’t we will have to perform additional lay offs.

I ask you, which department would you recommend we impose a reduction in staff – fire, streets, police or city hall?

If fire, then the city’s fire rating by the State Fire Rating Bureau will be impacted negatively and every person and entity in the city will have an increase in homeowner’s insurance premiums. If we lay off in the police department, again, our safety will be compromised.

We are already one headcount down in our streets department because city finances didn’t allow for the position of a former assistant city superintendent who resigned last year to be restaffed after it was vacated. Our streets crew is already operating without needed manpower. In previous years, and through economic downturns, city officials adopted the position, instead of laying off employees, we will avoid refilling positions vacated through resignation or retirement.

Today, city streets cost an average of $100,000 per mile to adequately pave and we have approximately 30 miles of paved streets inside Poplarville city limits. Many in much need of repair or replacement and money is required to meet those needs. Contrary to popular belief, there are no municipal bailout programs by State or Federal government when our roads are dilapidated and the City needs operating capital.

This referendum goes beyond just our city and our citizens; many of the supporters of this referendum are local business owners, who are at a “disadvantage” without the ability to sell beer and wine. Again, it always goes back to Business 101, “sustainability is achieved when more money comes in than goes out!”

Can we get there? Absolutely, but we have to make the right choices for revenue generation. Referendums are put in place for the purpose of cities helping themselves through popular vote

I’ve spoken with every level of law enforcement and all agree DUI rates are rarely impacted when a city approves a measure like the one before voters. Poplarville Police Chief Charlie Fazende has been quoted recently stating he expects the police department will see no increase in negative consequences should citizens vote for and approve the referendum. No surprise really, since residents will no longer be forced to drive into other counties or municipalities where beer and wine is sold.

We all know the history of our residents driving 25 to 45 minutes in every direction away from Poplarville to gain access to beer, wine and liquor. I have reasoned with the fact that not approving the referendum is potentially counterproductive to the new cultural adoption of not drinking and driving. By not offering these products we force those who chose to drink alcohol to get onto the roads to drive where it is available and drive back.

Facts, revenues will increase, however there are no local or state agencies that segregate municipal sales tax diversions by commodity, therefore representing no exact increase by percentage or dollar amount. I have spoken with city mayors and staff in Flowood, Senatobia, Ellisville, Wiggins, and Brandon regarding their recent referendum approvals and none report negative effects to crime rates.

In fact, all expressed sustainable tax increases and some now have economic development opportunities that would not have been available to the counties and municipalities if it hadn’t been approved. I’ve also spoken with the president of Mississippi Malt Beverage Association and they too care about Mississippi and have volunteered to be a resource to assist us with forming stringent regulation ideas around regulating sales. Regulation is our best tool in protecting the integrity of our small city, minimizing potential risk, while still being able to capitalize on the financial component beer and wine sales will bring in the short term and years to come.

Understand me when I say, never would I, or this city’s leadership, minimize the seriousness of drinking and driving or hurt caused through addiction, beer or otherwise, which are very real matters.

We love the people of Poplarville; they are the heartbeat of our community, and the essence of who we are as a place. I remind you, our spouses, children, relatives, and loved ones live and work here alongside each of you.

We will never allow bar rooms or nightclubs to build on our streets and will make every effort to manage this referendum if approved with utmost importance.

No matter your position, we encourage every eligible voter to exercise their right to vote : Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at City Hall from 7 a.m. through 7 p.m.