Olive Branch residents headed to the polls Tuesday for a special election on whether to require hotels and motels in the city to charge an extra 1% levy on stays. The money received would go to fund park and recreation improvements.
The six regular Olive Branch ward polling places opened at 7 am and closed at 7 pm The Nichols Community Center serves 5,255 people, and by 2:25 pm, 164 people had come in to vote.
“It doesn’t sound like a big number, but it is,” said Pat Brady, a poll worker. “Sometimes we just see 40 people all day.”
Sixty percent voter approval is needed for passage of the tax. If approved, officials said it is expected to generate about $500,000 annually for use in local parks. Olive Branch officials launched www.people4parks.com to push for passage of the tax.
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Ssanyu Musisi Nkambwe came out to vote at Nichols Community Center because her daughter plays at the Olive Branch parks every Saturday.
“It’s important to me that the parks are well maintained,” Nkambwe said. “I voted yes.”
Nkambwe said people in the community have not been talking about the issue a lot.
“I haven’t had a conversation with anybody about it,” she said. “Only my husband.”
Most people who do know about the vote, Nkambwe said, found out from the Olive Branch Facebook page.
If approved, the tax will last until July 1, 2026, at which time the city would have to ask the Legislature to continue the tax, if it chose to do so. Southaven voters approved a “Pennies for Parks” tax to supplement funding for recreation in the city in the early 2010s. That is a 1% tax on the gross sales in restaurants within the city limits. The Southaven tax recently received a four-year extension from the Legislature.
Dorothy and Elmo Johnson hadn’t heard much about the special election but came out and voted at Nichols Community Center anyway.
“We always vote,” Dorothy Johnson said. “Whenever it’s important, voting is important…if it’s something good, I’m going to be there.”
They voted yes on the issue.
“I think it’s good for the parks,” Elmo Johnson said. “To expand the parks.”
This story will be updated.
Gina Butkovich covers DeSoto County, storytelling and general news. She can be reached at 901-232-6714 or on Twitter @gigibutko.