Hattiesburg seeks tax; USM athletics targeted


Legislation to provide Hattiesburg the opportunity to levy a 1-cent on hotels, motels, restaurants and package liquor stores was introduced Tuesday in time to meet the deadline for Local and Private bills.

Sen. Billy Hudson, a Hattiesburg Republican, introduced Senate Bill 3069 Tuesday, and then it was sent to the Senate Local and Private and Finance committees. Half of the tax funds collected would be earmarked for the University of Southern Mississippi to improve athletic facilities and the other 50 percent for city parks and recreation.

Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker announced that the city would seek the extra 1-cent tax last Friday, one day after University of Southern Mississippi President Dr. Rodney Bennett asked the Hattiesburg City Council for help in renovating Reed Green Coliseum. Looking at a 2015 study, Bennett and Athletic Director John Gilbert outlined their proposal to renovate the facility.

“We must continually evolve as an institution of higher learning,” Bennett told the City Council. “One of our biggest challenges is to the meet the need of maintenance without addressing infrastructure.”

Bennett said the coliseum opened Dec. 6, 1965 and has a seating capacity of 8,095.

“There have been no significant improvements since the opening,” he said. “We do not have any other options.”

Bennett said the coliseum provides two benefits for the university and the city.

“I believe it will attract businesses looking for multiple venues for events like trade shows,” he said. “I also think it will serve as a destination for performers who want to schedule concerts. Overall, I think this can be an exceptional return on our investment.”

Before any tax can be imposed, the City of Hattiesburg must adopt a resolution declaring a tax will be levied, how much tax will be imposed, when the tax will start and the date of a referendum. All qualified city electors may vote, and the referendum must pass by 60 percent.