Booneville leaders are looking to boost development in the city with the creation of a new city tourism department.
The department was established with the final adoption last week of the city’s fiscal year 2017-18 budget. Mayor Chris Lindley said they believe there’s a need for a designated department to be in charge of promoting the city with all of the positive growth and development expected through use of the city’s new tourism tax funds.
The mayor and aldermen are still working out exact details of how the department will function but needed to formally establish it on paper in the new budget in order to move forward with it during the coming year.
Lindley said they plan for the department to include a full-time director and full-time assistant or secretary along with a part-time custodian position responsible for upkeep of the city-owned historic depot building.
Funds generated by the tourism tax cannot be used to fund salaries. Lindley said funding for the new positions will come from the city’s general fund revenue like the salaries of all other city employees.
He said he has already begun meeting with officials with the Booneville and Prentiss County Main Street Association which they want to be a strong partner with the city in tourism and promotion efforts moving forward.
“We want it to be hand in hand with them,” he said.
He envisions Main Street acting as an advisory board to aldermen regarding spending of tourism tax revenue - making recommendations for worthy projects. The city park commission now acts in a similar role for expenditures related to the park. The tourism tax bill authorized the funds to be spent for parks and recreation and tourism efforts in the city.
All expenditures of tourism tax funds and any other funds in the city must receive final approval from the board of aldermen who have the final say on how funds will be spent.
Included in the current budget are plans for spending the estimated $275,000 to be generated from the tax in the new fiscal year. Lindley has said they believe the tax will generate significantly more than that figure, but wanted to budget using a conservative number.
Projects being considered include a splash pad for Sunflower (East Side) Park, and second phase of construction to expand the existing splash pad at West Side Park and possible improvements at several intersections downtown to match the significant improvements scheduled to begin in the coming months at six key intersections downtown and several sidewalks as part of a $750,000 grant approved for the city from the federal Transportation Alternative Program.
The mayor emphasized that none of the tourism tax monies are being or will be used for day to day expenses at the parks or other locations and instead will be put toward projects to improve the community and encourage development and visitation.