The state and county elections are over, but Bay St. Louis voters will return to the polls next month to cast ballots in a referendum on whether the city may levy a two percent food and beverage tax.

According to a legal notice from the city, the Bay St. Louis City Council "intends to levy a tax upon every person, firm or corporation operating a bar in the city, at a rate not to exceed two percent of the gross proceeds of the sales of such bar and to levy a tax upon every person, firm or corporation operating a restaurant in the city," not to exceed two percent.

The council voted unanimously in February to approve a resolution to ask the Mississippi Legislature to approve the submission of a Local/Private bill to authorize the tax. The money would be used for tourism, parks and recreation in the city. The Legislature approved the bill in its regular session this year.

The council last week finalized Dec. 17 as the date for the referendum.

"We've been looking at doing some projects for awhile, some of them for many, many years, and we're doing this so we can fund them," Bay St. Louis Mayor Mike Favre said.

Favre said the money would go directly to the city and be spent at the discretion of the city council, but "it's very specific what the money can be spent on and the (state) auditors will be watching us pretty close."

"We're looking at some hosting some fishing tournaments, upgrading the ball field (at the Bay St. Louis Athletic Complex), and the soccer complex, trying to improve those fields and help the kids there. We also need to air condition the Boys & Girls Club," Favre said. "We're also looking at an amphitheater there at the Depot to try to revitalize that area. Anything we can do to promote tourism, and anything we can do to keep the kids off the streets and out of trouble."

City Clerk Sissy Gonzales said Tuesday that qualified electors will cast their ballots in the referendum in the same places where they voted in the general election earlier this month.

Absentee voting will begin Monday, Dec. 2, and run through Saturday, Dec. 14, in the office of the city clerk at Bay St. Louis City Hall, located at 688 Hwy. 90.

The clerk's office will be open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; and open from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Dec. 7 and Saturday, Dec. 14.

The deadline to mail an absentee ballot is 5 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 16.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 17.

At least 60 percent of the voters who cast their ballots in the referendum must agree to the tax before it would be enacted. If the voters approve the tax, Favre said, it would only be levied for three years. After that, the city would have to return to the Legislature and ask for another local/private bill.

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