Southaven City Hall

Southaven City Hall

The City of Southaven is joining other Mississippi cities in passing a resolution urging the state Legislature to send to the cities a portion of any sales tax collected through online purchases.

That resolution passed during Tuesday night’s Board of Aldermen meeting. Columbus and Oxford officials have already approved similar resolutions in advance of a possible special session expected to be called by Gov. Phil Bryant later this month.

While transportation/infrastructure issues are to be discussed if and when such a session is called, internet online sales taxes were also high on the list of other possible topics.

Mississippi has already been collecting a use tax on purchases from internet-based outlets, such as Amazon.

Cities now want to see the state funnel some of that money back to them, where local retail stores are adversely affected when people buy competing items online.

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month overturned a 1992 ban on states collecting sales taxes from internet retailers not located in their state. The ruling also determined that cities should receive 18.5 percent of the “use tax” collected on online sales. That amount is equal to what cities already get from regular sales taxes collected inside their city limits.

“The government’s role in business is to level the playing field to create fairness,” Mayor Darren Musselwhite said at Tuesday’s meeting. “What this amounts to for Mississippi is about $50 million. Of that amount, $2.5 million of that is generated in the city of Southaven. It’s a fair request, I believe.”

The state House has passed similar measures during the past two legislative sessions but both times it has failed to advance in the state Senate.

Among other items from Tuesday’s meeting, aldermen also heard from a potential buyer of a building the city owns that now houses a church, a food pantry and other programs.

The city owns what was at one time a Walmart store at 385 Stateline Road, but the city has been looking for a buyer since Heartland Church, which currently is located there, announced plans to build its own new facility.

That placed the future of non-church connected programs, in particular the Heartland Hands food pantry, in jeopardy. Heartland Hands, while housed in the building, is not directly connected to the church and would not move with the congregation.

Tuesday, Bishop Be’Daun R. Smith, the pastor of the Greater Beth-El Temple (COGIC), told the board his ministry is interested in buying the property and keeping the programs there while his church moves in.

“385 Stateline Road has served as a beacon of light for many great organizations, such as Heartland Church, Heartland Hands food pantry and DeSoto Grace,” Smith said. “We don’t want to take away those things. We want to add to those things by housing those particular organizations right along with our ministry. We are asking that you would consider allowing us to purchase that building.”

Smith later said he has had preliminary conversations with Mayor Musselwhite about the building but was told he needed to speak with the Board of Aldermen.

The item was informational in nature with no immediate action taken Tuesday night.

Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

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