Theus pushes for increase Southside sales taxes on April ballot

If the Louisiana Bonding Commission gives the green light, Southside residents could be asked to decide whether or not to raise their taxes to benefit fund South Economic Development Projects.

Tuesday night, a public online meeting was held via Zoom in which leaders of the Southside Economic Development District explained why the district wants to increase sales taxes in South Monroe by a half-cent.

SEDD director Charles Theus told meeting attendees the tax would generate about $1 million a year that would be used to fund various projects from amusement parks, a hotel, small business assistance, and a Renwick Street strip mall. Theus was one of several presenters Tuesday including, Rev. Marty Campbell and Senator Katrina Jackson, who hosted the meeting.

Theus said the tax would also include a “use” tax on Southside residents’ personal and business property. He explained that tangible items purchased outside of the Southside could be assessed the “use” tax, which would be the same as the sales tax, but he expected it to be self-reporting.
About 65 participants, including elected officials and citizens, listened to the presentation, scheduled to be heard by the State Bonding Commission on February 23rd at 10 a.m.

If the bonding commission approves SEDD’s request, the tax proposal will be on the April 24th ballot.

The Monroe Chamber of Commerce opposes any increase in sales taxes because they are considered regressive.

Monroe Mayor Oliver “Friday” Ellis also opposes the tax but has offered to enter into an arrangement with the Southside, similar to one he recently approved for downtown.

In the Downtown deal, the city is allowing the Downtown Economic Development District to use up to $500,000 tax monies generated in downtown for the improvement of downtown. It would not require new taxes.

Mayor Ellis wants to make a similar arrangement for Southside, but it could involve more annual revenue for the Southside because there are more businesses in the SEDD, including the neighborhood Walmart near ULM.

The Mayor’s plan would not involve any new taxes.

Participants in Tuesday’s meeting were not told of Mayor Ellis’s offer.

For the last three years, the SEDD has collected a hotel tax from hotels along Highway 165. It has been criticized because although it has collected over $200,000 in taxes, no businesses have been helped since the hotel tax was passed three years ago.

Four of the seven SEDDD board members have been replaced. There are two vacancies on the board that have not been filled.

At present, there are no representatives on the SEDD board from the African-American business community.

If the proposal makes it to the ballot and passes, the tax would probably begin collections in Southside businesses in October of this year.