Shelton delivers first budget to City Council

Tupelo StockBy Robbie Ward
Daily Journal

TUPELO – Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton delivered Monday his first proposed budget to the City Council, a $31.9 million document that assumes flat sales tax revenue for fiscal year 2014, doesn’t dip into city reserves or give employees a pay increase.

When Shelton provided copies to of the budget to City Council members, he called it a “first draft.” State law requires the council to approve a budget by Sept. 15.

The budget is a close reflection of the current budget, originally set at $32 million but which included $120,000 in grants. The proposed budget doesn’t include any grants to the city, which will be added before adoption.
Shelton said at the beginning of the budget process that he wanted a budget that didn’t lean on issuing bonds or dipping into the city’s $18 million in reserves.

“It’s a good start,” Shelton said late Monday.

One of the most challenging first experiences for a new administration is crafting the first budget after taking office less than two months earlier.

The City Council will hold a meeting on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m to go over the proposed budget, department by department.
Council president Nettie Davis acknowledged a compressed time to consider the mayor’s budget but said she had confidence in the experience of the council to pass the document in time. This year the budget deadline is a Sunday, so the council could call a special meeting on Sept. 13 to approve the document.

While the budget does include a new in-house legal council position, it doesn’t include any support staff for the position. Shelton said he preferred a city attorney position over the city’s longtime history of contracting legal services to a local law firm.

While not included in the budget, Lee County tax collector Leroy Belk Jr. proposed Monday a $50,000 increase in the fee charged to collect taxes for the city. The budget also doesn’t address ongoing concerns with necessary repairs to the Tupelo Regional Airport’s taxiway expected to cost at least $700,000.

“We’ll just be working on both issues simultaneously,” Shelton said of the city budget and airport issues.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com