Capital budget proposed for Tupelo

TUPELO – The city will consider a five-year, $31 million capital projects proposal that would build two indoor sports centers and fund a portion of the Tupelo Neighborhood Reinvestment Plan.
It was unveiled this week to the City Council as part of Tupelo’s upcoming fiscal year budget. It shifts big-ticket expenses from the municipality’s general operations budget into a separate spending plan.
The council hasn’t yet adopted the plan.
The general budget, which sits around $34 million, funds the city’s routine business and includes items like employee salaries, fuel and office supplies. But it also has paid for major expenditures like street overlays, facilities improvements, the purchase of new vehicles and equipment.
“Those aren’t operational items,” said Tupelo Chief Financial Officer Lynn Norris, who first lobbied for the separate spending plans last year.
“We’re trying to get those off the operational budget,” he said, “and into the capital project fund where they belong.”
In a proposal given to council members this week, Tupelo would spend nearly $7.5 million in the upcoming fiscal year on a host of major purchases and projects, including a new indoor basketball facility in Lee Acres. It would then spend roughly $3 million annually in three of the next four years, mostly for neighborhood improvements, street work and vehicle purchases.
The Fire Department alone needs three engines, which cost a half-million dollars each.
But in 2014, the plan envisions $15 million worth of expenditures – the bulk of which would go toward a new indoor aquatic center.
Money for the capital projects plan would come from a series of bonds, reimbursable over the next two and a half decades at a low interest rate – between 2.5 and 4.75 percent.
Conversely, expenses listed in the general budget are funded by municipal revenues like sales and property tax collections.
Mayor Jack Reed Jr. supported the capital plan this week, saying it allows the city to better manage its future. Included in the plan is funding for one of Reed’s major pushes this year: neighborhood revitalization.
It sets aside $600,000 annually for property acquisitions, boarding and demolition, landscaping, street and drainage improvements and utility upgrades, as well as funds for neighborhood association grants.
Reed had tried to establish a fund for those efforts through the existing Major Thoroughfare Program and later through a new program called the Tupelo Neighborhood Reinvestment Plan. Both attempts failed, although the council eventually could decide to fund the reinvestment plan.
The council has until Sept. 15 to discuss the city’s budget and the capital projects plan. At that point, they must adopt the next fiscal year budget, which goes into effect Oct. 1.
emily.lecoz@journalinc.com

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal