Deal struck on Tupelo budget

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – City Council members Wednesday settled on a spending plan for the 2012 fiscal year that includes $1 million in street overlay projects and a 3 percent across-the-board staff salary hike.
They’ll meet again Friday to review a finalized version of the roughly $33 million operational budget, along with an updated $28.5 million capital project plan. No word yet on when the council will vote to adopt the measures, but it must happen by Sept. 15.
The new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.
“It’s been a great process,” said council President Fred Pitts, after the most recent two-hour budget session at City Hall. It capped roughly six weeks of intense labor over the financial plan during which council members held several meetings to pore over the budget prepared by Mayor Jack Reed Jr. and Chief Financial Officer Lynn Norris.
Reed and Norris initially had recommended a $31 million operating budget, funded mainly through taxes. They also wanted a five-year, $31 million capital project plan, funded largely through bonds.
But some council members had complained about separating the expenditures and argued some of the capital projects should go back into the general budget or be stricken from plans entirely.
On Wednesday, both sides struck a compromise. About $1 million of capital street overlays went back into operational budget while an additional $1 million in overlays was removed.
A half-million dollars for college tuition assistance disappeared from the general budget. It will absorb some street overlay costs.
Also gone is $30,000 for the Plant A Seed Program, a pilot effort launched this year to give at-risk youth summer jobs in the city. It instead will be folded into an existing youth jobs program run largely through Parks and Recreation.
Ward 6 Councilman Mike Bryan had recommended the move, along with other budget changes like the street overlays and the creation of an additional $45,000 code enforcement officer position.
The compromised budget also retains a 3 percent raise for all full-time municipal employees and still requires no tax hike or rainy day funds.
Little changed in the capital plan, which still includes $600,000 for neighborhood improvements and a $12 million new aquatic center.

Highlights of proposal
– A 3 percent raise for all full-time municipal employees

– $1 million for street overlay projects

– One new code enforcement officer and six new police officers

– No money for a proposed college tuition program or to continue this summer’s pilot Plant a Seed Program

– No tax hikes or rainy day funding needed to balance the budget

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