Tax collector asks Tupelo to pay higher fee

Tupelo StockBy Robbie Ward
Daily Journal

TUPELO – Lee County Tax Collector Leroy Belk Jr. doesn’t support raising taxes in Tupelo, but he does want an increase in the fee his office receives to collect them on behalf of the city, an amount that hasn’t changed in a dozen years.

Just as Tupelo City Council members begin reviewing the 2014 fiscal year budget presented by Mayor Jason Shelton, they’ll have to consider adding $50,000 – a 50 percent increase – from the current contract for tax collection. Belk requests a new flat fee of $150,000 annually.

Otherwise, the city would likely invest significantly more if it decided to begin collecting on its own.

Belk and Lee County Tax Assessor Mark Weathers met with the City Council on Monday to discuss the request for a higher fee.

“We’re just asking for a modest increase,” Belk told the council.

Council President Nettie Davis, the most senior council member serving a fourth term, said the agreement has been beneficial for the city.

“It has been more cost effective and seems like it has streamlined the collection,” Davis said.

Other municipalities in Lee County – Saltillo, Guntown, Plantersville, Verona, Nettleton and Shannon – all pay a percentage of overall taxes collected.

Belk said growth in Tupelo through the years, including the addition of about 2,800 new residents through annexation, requires more expenses to collect the city’s taxes. The tax collector said he needs a new facility to add employees, something he will address with the Lee County Board of Supervisors.

Before making a decision to pay the increase requested, the City Council will likely hold a work session to discuss it further.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com