Tupelo looks at strong FY11 budget

By Emily LeCoz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – City finances appear stable as officials begin the weeks-long process of preparing Tupelo’s next fiscal-year budget.
“The city is strong,” said Chief Financial Officer Lynn Norris, who returned this year as the municipality’s top money manager after more than a decade as a private consultant.
It’s too early to project Tupelo’s FY11 revenues, Norris said, but it’s safe to assume they’ll remain flat, if not slightly better than what the city received this year.
The FY10 general-fund budget was set in September at $35.6 million, with nearly half of that amount – $16.3 million – coming from sales tax collections. But collections have come in modestly higher than anticipated since that time.
“We’re looking at $93,705 over budget,” said City Clerk Kim Hanna.
It’s a sign Tupelo has begun its slow, upward climb out of the recession that has plagued it the past couple years, Hanna noted.
But she said the city might safely anticipate a 1 percent increase in sales tax collections during the next fiscal year, a figure that likely will be reflected in its FY11 budget.
The fiscal year begins Oct. 1, and city leaders must adopt their budget by Sept. 15.
In addition to the general fund, which provides money to each municipal department, Tupelo manages four 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. Norris said department heads and elected officials typically draft the list each year, but he’s now creating a five-year capital-fund plan of projects and purchases to work toward.
Altogether, the city has a budget of $173.6 million this fiscal year. That amount will fluctuate slightly as projects are completed and bond debt rolls off. Hanna estimated Tupelo’s total financial budget will sit around $168 million when FY11 begins this fall.