By John Balch
Murfreesboro Mayor Rodney Fagan told members of the Murfreesboro Chamber of Commerce to “get on the fast track” in researching the possibility of putting a “tourism tax” proposals to city voters this November.
Chamber members attended Monday night’s city council meeting to discuss a proposed two-percent tourism tax. Chamber member Jane Fugitt said revenue generated by the tax – which “will not affect locals” – would be used to create a full-time tourism office operated by the chamber. The tourism office would include public restrooms, which has been an ongoing major concern for the town’s merchants.
Fugitt said the chamber has been working hard over the last two years but the non-profit group is currently financial “broke.” It was reported that this time last year the chamber’s bank account had a balance of under $300 with a current balance of approximately $6,000.
Discussion included levying the tax on the city’s RV parks, camp parks, motels, restaurants and the Crater of Diamonds State Park. The consensus of the council was that the need for a tourism office is long overdue.
“This is a tourism tax,” Fugitt said. “The 184,000 people per year who come here are the ones who will be paying the tax.”
“It seems everyone’s on the same page here,” Mayor Fagan said about the need of the chamber to become a more viable entity in promoting the city and its tourism attractions.
“But, we need to get moving as soon as we can” to possibly get the proposal on the General Election ballot this November.
Fagan requested the chamber “get on the fast track” and start working on specific wording while the city looks into, if the tax passes, how to transfer the expected revenue from the city to the non-profit group and other legalities.
In related business, Fugitt questioned the effectiveness of the Southwest Arkansas Regional Intermodal Authority (SWARIA), which was created in 2010 to promote industry and includes Pike, Clark, Montgomery and Dallas counties. She said the county and the city “have dropped the ball” on taking advantage of being members of the economical group.
Fugitt explained that when she searched the Internet for the group that only Clark County is represented on the group’s website. “There is nothing for Pike County,” she said.
“Arkadelphia has used it to their full advantage,” she added.
Fugitt also questioned if the city would benefit by joining SWARIA for the $1,000 annual fee.
Mayor Fagan noted the county is already a member and the city is part of the county. The fact that the city or county is not currently being promoted by the group on its website is a concern that should be looked at and corrected.
“We need a commitment that they will promote you if you join or are a member,” Fagan said.
There was no action taken on the issue but Mayor Fagan said he will discuss the matter with Pike County Judge Dwight Mack and Lewis Diggs, who is a SWARIA director.