EDITORIAL: One issue unresolved

By NEMS Daily Journal

Little more than a week remains before the Tupelo City Council’s self-imposed July 5 deadline and vote on a package of revitalization measures responding to and correcting loss of middle class population, declines in the quality of housing, and performance issues in the public school district.
The outlines of a partial agreement were reached in a work session Thursday, but no agreement has been verbally struck on reforming and increasing fees charged landlords on rental property.
Mayor Reed and council members discussed and debated the proposed Tupelo Neighborhood Reinvestment Plan for two hours at Thursday’s called work session. No votes were taken, but an informal agreement was reached on three of four major components. The council remains several degrees apart on the landlord fee issues.
We hope another special work session will be called to try and resolve that issue, which involves license fees and inspection costs for both apartment dwellings and free-standing residential properties.
The agreements struck all represent compromises from original proposals, which met with significant reservations among some City Council members. The tentative agreements include these points:
– A low-interest loan program to help homebuyers with down payments, with a maximum set at $50,000 at 2.5 percent.
– A matching grant for homeowners improving properties, with a $7,500 maximum grant within urban renewal districts for houses at least 20 years old, with limited uses for the grants in terms of improvements.
– A program to pay college tuition for graduating high school students would kick in after two years of college, with students still eligible for tuition assistance for the first two years at Itawamba Community College, a program in place and successful. The city will pay the second two years. A 2.5 grade point would be required to qualify.
It’s projected the reinvestment will attract $45 million in private investment to the city, stabilize the middle-class population, and provide an incentive for families to stay in the Tupelo Public School District.
The reinvestment challenge is different from any other initiative undertaken by the city (Fairpark District is one example, the reclamation and redevelopment of the former fairgrounds downtown). The proposed new plan is forming under adverse circumstances, but it is affordable and necessary.
Expert projections call for no property tax increase to pay the $14.9 million estimated necessary to fully fund the redevelopment, which would include bonded debt, and private capital already committed.
Tackling challenges and resolving them is the mark of an All-America City, which Tupelo became for the fourth time earlier this month.