Over the last nearly seven years, the Barnett Reservoir has grown an additional source of revenue through the sale of “REZ” car tags.
REZ tags were first available in 2013 and brought in approximately $1,581. Sales have increased dramatically since then, with approximately $23,136 being raised for the 2019 fiscal year in tax revenue.
Each tag costs an additional $31, with $24 of that going to the Barnett Reservoir Foundation (BRF).
“The money was always envisioned as a voluntary contribution to enhance the reservoir,” Reservoir General Manager John Sigman said. “In the first years, the BRF was not an established organization so the money went to the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District (PRVWSD). Now, BRF is up and going and it is believed that this is a better place for the money.”
Rez car tag sales have brought in roughly $83,957 since 2013, with $1,609 from fiscal year 2014; $6,007, fiscal year 2015; $13,320, fiscal year 2016; $17,832, fiscal year 2017; $20,472, fiscal year 2018.
The PRVWSD board has used the funds to build two playgrounds in reservoir parks, according to Sigman. The playgrounds cost about $50,000 each.
Now that the BRF receives the Rez car tag sales revenue, Deputy Director Susan Brashear said the foundation intends to use those funds to continue the reservoir’s Independence Day celebration and to make improvements to the parks.
“The foundation has grown over the past several years and has several new goals in mind,” Brashear said.
She said the reservoir Independence Day celebration is a joint effort of the foundation and PRVWSD board to provide a free, public event at both Lakeshore and Old Trace parks.
“Every dollar that is spent on the celebration is raised by the foundation, because even though they partner with the PRV, it is a state agency and cannot use the funds that are self-generated by the PRV on these events,” she said.
The annual budget for the Independence Day celebration alone is approximately $45,000, with roughly $20,000 of that being used strictly for fireworks. Funds for the event are either donated by sponsors or raised through multiple events held throughout the year, including Smokin’ on the Rez, the monthly concert series and Food Truck Mash Up.
“However, even with all the events held to help generate money for the Independence Day celebration, we usually come up short,” Brashear said. “The tag money will be used mostly to help fund the Independence Day celebration. However, the foundation has always wanted to produce enough income to help fund playground equipment in some of the PRV parks as it helped with the Dog Park in Old Trace Park, which has been a huge success.”
Brashear said there are ongoing conversations about trying to secure grant money to pair with tag sales revenue to build a new state-of-the-art playground in one of the parks.
The BRF officially formed in 2011, following support from several reservoir community members to bring back the fireworks, which was the foundation’s initial goal.
“The original president, Buddy Medlin, was a lover of the reservoir and wanted to start a community outreach program for the betterment of the reservoir and its surrounding cities and counties and to improve the image of the reservoir,” Brashear said.
The original BRF board members were picked from a list of names that were submitted by several reservoir community leaders and reservoir groups, including Keep the Rez Beautiful, river cleanup crews and fishing groups, according to Brashear.
As terms rotate out on a one, two or three-year basis, several names are submitted to the 11-member board to vote on for replacements.