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Hernando to vote on 1% tax for parks

By , Special to The Daily Memphian Updated: November 02, 2022 12:36 PM CT | Published: November 01, 2022 3:10 PM CT

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A grassroots blitz by Hernando business leaders promoting a 1% tax on prepared foods with the revenue earmarked for park and recreation improvements is in its final week.

The city’s voters go to the polls Nov. 8 to decide whether to adopt the tax on meals prepared at places like restaurants and delis.

Officials say the tax has the potential to radically change the quality of recreation in the city. Projections indicate the tax may raise $800,000 to $1 million a year.

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While these efforts are commonly called “Penny for Parks,” Hernando business leaders adopted the phrase “Coins for Kids.”

“It’s for the kids,” said Jon Stevenson, a developer and owner of a local country club. “For me, it’s all about the children.”

The Board of Aldermen agreed this summer to pursue “Option D” if the tax is approved. The city quickly launched an information campaign to provide residents with details on the $13.7 million parks improvement plan.

Business leaders joined the effort. Not only do they believe it’s good for the children, but they believe quality parks are good business, Stevenson said.

“It will not negatively affect our businesses,” he said, “and it sure will do a lot of good for our children and grandchildren.”

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The business leaders have put out supportive signs, sent direct marketing material to addresses, discussed the tax and used social media to argue their cause. It has been “a full marketing campaign,” Stevenson said.

Mayor Chip Johnson said even if a resident does not use the city facilities nor have children who use them, they can benefit.

“Having great parks increases your property values,” Johnson said, referencing information from the National Association of Realtors. “So, it’s positive for everyone in the city.”

The planned improvements include:

  • 8 new baseball/softball fields with parking and lighting
  • Pickleball and tennis facilities with parking and a pavilion
  • Basketball court with parking
  • Milton Kuykendall Field improvements
  • Soccer complex lighting

The first year of taxes would allow city officials to obtain the initial funding, primarily focused on improvements at Renasant Park.

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As the city continues to add eateries, officials expect the amount in taxes raised to grow, allowing them the ability for additional improvements to parks and recreational facilities.

“So far, we’ve had very little pushback on the initiative,” Stephenson said.

But not zero pushback. Some residents are opposed to any new taxes, no matter the amount.

The 1-cent-per-dollar tax is not necessarily permanent, a clause in the Legislature’s agreement to allow the tax vote that Stevenson likes.

That factor adds accountability, though Southaven recently won an extension to bring its “Pennies for Parks” tax back to voters.

Mississippi legislators also voted earlier this year to allow Olive Branch to try for the parks tax. That city decided to propose a 1% hotel/motel tax. It overwhelmingly won approval.

At least 60% of the voters in Hernando must approve of the proposed new tax for the city to institute it.


Hernando Chip Johnson parks and recreation tax on prepared foods
Toni Lepeska

Toni Lepeska

Toni Lepeska is a freelance reporter for The Daily Memphian. The 34-year veteran of newspaper journalism is an award-winning essayist and covers a diversity of topics, always seeking to reveal the human story behind the news. Toni, who grew up in Cayce, Mississippi, is a graduate of the University of Mississippi. To learn more, visit


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