Tupelo leaders like 'Neighborhood Reinvestment'

TUPELO – A multifacted plan to stop middle-class decline won initial support from the City Council this week, but it must clear more hurdles before implementation.
Most council members generally agreed with the plan and its approach to revitalizing Tupelo, they told the Daily Journal on Tuesday, a day after the plan was presented in full.
But they want more information about the plan’s strategies and about the city’s ability to pay for it. They also want a chance to put their own fingerprints on the final mold.
“This is a plan we can take and tweak and come up with a workable plan, and finance it without burdening the taxpayers,” said Ward 1 Councilman Markel Whittington. “It’ll take a lot of work to put the final touches on it.”
The $15.7 million Tupelo Neighborhood Reinvestment Plan, proposed to stop the middle-class flight reflected in the 2010 census, aims to make the city more competitive at attracting and retaining families.
Among its recommendations: a low-interest loan program to help homebuyers with down payments; stronger code enforcement funded by higher landlord permit fees; a matching grant for homeowners improving their properties; and a program to pay college tuition for graduating high school students.
Details were unveiled Monday at City Hall, capping a month of research by four committees organized by the Community Development Foundation and made up primarily of business leaders. At least one council member was appointed to each group as a city liaison.
“I commend all the volunteers that put an effort into doing this,” said Ward 7 Councilman Willie Jennings. “I think we came up with a good program.”
The plan could be implemented using municipal bonds and require no tax increase, said City Chief Financial Officer Lynn Norris. It would generate more than $61 million in investments to Tupelo neighborhoods over five years.
It’s a claim that sounded too good to be true for Ward 3 Councilman Jim Newell, who said the city already has numerous projects designated for bond issues. Among them are a proposed $7 million aquatics facility and a $25 million annexation plan.
“I want to see the documentation that … we can do these plans without a tax increase,” Newell said. “That’s not to say I’ll support it, but that’s the number one key.”
The council will meet again Tuesday with the CDF committees to ask questions and offer their own strategies.
“It’s still a work in progress,” said Ward 5 Councilman Jonny Davis.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@journalinc.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal