By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Mayors representing eight of Mississippi’s largest cities met Thursday and Friday to talk about the opportunities – and challenges they face while leading their communities.
George Lewis, executive director of the Mississippi Municipal League, also attended the gathering.
“We’re a state of small cities, so, these were cities with populations of 30,000-plus,” he said. “This influential group has a lot of things in common. They’re talking about new solutions and ideas and the opportunities they have. … This can help other communities as well.”
The mayors had dinner Thursday evening and met informally, then met another three hours Friday morning.
Hernando Mayor Chip Johnson, who also is the president of the MML, said his colleagues discussed several topics.
“I think one thing that was brought up is that we have so many ways that state law and statutes don’t let or allow us to do what we’d like to do,” he said.
Much like the issues of states’ rights in the face of federal governance and control, cities in Mississippi face a similar problem with state government, Johnson said.
“If we want to do a project, we should be able to so,” he said. “Every community has some project, but it can’t be done on property or sales tax alone.”
The state Legislature has the power to levy sales tax increases, but the MML supports more local control.
It supports CEDA – the Citizens for Economic Development Act – which would allow communities to vote on a local sales tax to fund local projects.
Reed said the overriding issue of the meeting was the unfunded mandates passed on the municipalities by the state and federal governments.
“There’s no place for us to push the funding except to our citizens,” he said. “For example, we have to handle a $500,000 contribution to PERS passed on from the state to the city. We have to figure out how to pay for that.”
The mayors said they planned to make the major city mayors meeting an annual event. Next year, Meridian will be the host, but no date had been decided.