Tupelo plan on the menu for May 31

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The City Council will resume its discussion about a proposed $15.7 million neighborhood revitalization plan when it reconvenes at a May 31 work session.
Council members will mull the plan and can recommend changes, but because it’s not an officially called meeting, they cannot vote on the matter.
It’s set to begin at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall. Like all council meetings, this one is open to the public. But it’s not a community hearing, and residents likely won’t be given an opportunity to speak.
“This is a time for us to get together as a council and really take ownership of the plan,” said council President Fred Pitts.
Called the Tupelo Neighborhood Reinvestment Plan, the initiative aims to make Tupelo more attractive to families of all income levels. It was created in response to recent census data showing slow population growth in Tupelo and stagnant income levels while surrounding areas thrived.
The plan has four main components: 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.
Tupelo’s chief financial officer, Lynn Norris, says the city will pay for the program with bonds and won’t require a tax increase. Mayor Jack Reed Jr. and several council members stand by Norris’ financial assessment, but not everyone agrees it’s feasible.
Ward 6 Councilman Mike Bryan said he believes Tupelo will be forced into a tax increase if it passes the plan. He also opposes the component offering low-interest home loans.
Ward 3 Councilman Jim Newell also doubts the financing. And he wants to replace the four-year college tuition component with a “two-plus-two program.” It would piggyback on the county’s existing community college tuition guarantee.
Numerous residents, too, oppose all or parts of the plan – especially landlords who, under one of the components, would face steep hikes in municipal rental-license fees.
But many other residents support the plan, including several prominent business leaders who helped craft the proposal at the request of the city and the Community Development Foundation.
CDF’s Board of Directors also unanimously voted to endorse the plan.
Ultimately, it’s the seven members of the City Council who must decide whether to adopt the sweeping initiative in whole or in part. Pitts said he hopes to hold a vote in June; other council members want more time.

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@journalinc.com.