SOUTHAVEN, MS (abc24.com) - It's not a party, it's a reception. That's what Southaven city leaders are saying about an event costing tens of thousands of dollars.
The city hosts the gathering every year in Biloxi at the Mississippi Municipal League Conference. It used to be paid for by Southaven's Chamber of Commerce and city tourism money. This year, they're taking a different approach.
Every dime of taxpayers' money is being scrutinized in Southaven. The Chamber of Commerce won't pay for the reception this year, so the mayor's finding support outside city hall.
"The City of Southaven started doing this reception 12-13 years ago," says Mayor Greg Davis. "We started out in a suite doing it and people would stand in line just to get through."
"It got bigger and bigger," says Alderman Ronnie Hale.
Southaven's reception now costs upwards of $50,000.
"It's grown into one of the largest receptions at the MML conference," Davis tells abc24.com. "We take a lot of pride in that."
Davis says the yearly event is designed to promote the city. This year, he's finding sponsors to pay for it and says 15 businesses have pledged to pay.
"They're in the business of doing business."
The event is held at the Beau Rivage Casino. As to how the money is spent, and how much, Davis says, "Ask anybody who's planned a wedding reception. We're talking about 2,000 people, hors d'oeuvres, standing around networking. We're looking at about 30 dollars a person. In a casino with catering, to get all that in my opinion is not a bad deal."
Southaven's Board of Aldermen approved matching up to $25,000 from the city's tourism fund.
"We think it's a worthwhile project," says Alderman Ronnie Hale. "Maybe with donations coming in, not going to be spending out of tourism money."
"We can't sit back and wait for things to fall in our laps," Davis says. "Something's worked the last 15 years. We've grown, have got great amenities, and done it all without property tax increase."
The conference is the last week of June. Mayor Davis and all but two aldermen are planning to attend.