Follow the money: Where does it come from and go?

By NEMS Daily Journal


TUPELO – Shoppers are the city’s biggest general-fund revenue source, and public safety is its biggest expense.
As elected officials mull Tupelo’s next fiscal year budget plan, the Daily Journal offers readers a glimpse of the major players and the numbers they represent.
The City Council must adopt the 2012 budget by Sept. 15. It goes into effect Oct. 1.
Like most years, sales tax revenues paid by shoppers in Tupelo provide the city about half its general operating funds – that’s about $16.5 million.
The second-largest contributor is property taxes paid by Tupelo home and business owners, who put about $6.2 million into municipal coffers. The city has a 32.47 tax rate. That means for every $1 of assessed property value, an owner pays $0.003247 in taxes.
For a $150,000 home – the value typically assigned to middle-income dwellings – that’s $487.05 a year.
But only half of the total levy goes to the general fund budget; the rest goes to the library; police and fire retirement fund; bonds and interest and the Major Thoroughfare Program.
Capital grants and contributions come in third, with service fees, operating grants, ticket fines and investment incomes making up the rest.
Together, these sources fund Tupelo’s roughly $35 million annual general fund budget, which pays employee salaries and fuels the core of the city’s daily operations.
Eating the biggest portion of this pie are departments providing public safety: The Police Department boasts Tupelo’s largest departmental budget with nearly $9 million of the general fund; fire comes in second with roughly $5.5 million.
Public Works, which tackles street, building and drainage maintenance, has the third-largest general fund budget at $5.4 million.
Debt payments and capital fund projects come in fourth with $4.6 million, followed by other municipal departments’ budgets.
In addition to the general fund, Tupelo manages other funds in its overall operating budget, as well as a capital budget.
The other operating funds include debt services to pay off bonds; proprietary funds for utilities; a self-insurance fund; and a special revenues fund for the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Lee County Library, North Mississippi Narcotics Unit and several other entities.
The capital budget collects and disburses money for large-scale projects like drainage improvements, the Major Thoroughfare Program and the Cooper Tire Incentive Program.
Included in that budget is the city’s annual wish list of big-ticket items, like new fire trucks and a new aquatic center.
Altogether, the city has a budget of roughly $170 million this fiscal year.
According to the city’s most recent audit, Tupelo is in good general financial condition. Its assets exceed liabilities by nearly $236 million. And its total debt decreased slightly from more than $92 million last year to roughly $86 million this year.
The city has nearly $50 million remaining in bonding capacity, and it has a Aa2 bond rating – among the best in the state.


emily.lecoz@journalinc.com