ED NEELLY: Tupelo renewal plan puts city at risk financially

By Ed Neelly

I feel compelled by conscience to share the following thoughts on the proposed “Tupelo All American Neighborhood Reinvestment Plan.”
The plan includes:
• Establish a fast track home loan program – In a few words, the program proposes to grant second mortgage loans to any home buyer, to provide equity so that a mortgage lender will grant a first mortgage loan to the borrower. The benefits to the borrower are that he will not be required to purchase private mortgage insurance, and he will not be required to have 1 cent of equity in the property.
Now isn’t that a great idea? Nothing down and “no skin in the game”? Isn’t the United States suffering through a significant economic recession that was brought about by doing exactly the same thing?
Having spent 44 years in the commercial banking business, I can assure our City Council and mayor that making 100 percent second mortgage loans will only result in disaster to our city treasury over the longer term.
• Improving Tupelo’s Competitive Housing – Why would my city give me or anyone else, a monetary grant (gift) of up to $10,000 to improve or remodel my home that is 15 years old or older? It is not logical to me that the city of Tupelo would give $10,000 to anyone, regardless of income. This is absurd.
• Enhancing municipal rental standards – I am wholeheartedly in favor of energetically enforcing our city’s code. We should be doing that today. This plan calls for charging approximately $850,000 annually in new fees to the owners of all rental properties. Perhaps some reasonable increase in fees may be justified, but $850,000 each year? In the end, the owners will simply pass on the cost to their renters.
• The Tupelo Promise – I recall not long ago, CDF, CREATE, and Lee County announced that any student that graduated from any high school in Lee County will have their full tuition paid to attend our local community college, ICC, for two years. This is available today. Why would the city of Tupelo pay tuition and fees to any state university when the first two years are already covered?
I am puzzled that work and saving one’s money are never mentioned as a solution to all of the proposed programs. Is there something wrong with honest work? As for me, I sacked groceries, stocked shelves, dug ditches with a pick and shovel, and worked 10-hour days at a dairy. I also saved that money that I earned, and with the help of my family, I graduated from the University of Mississippi.
I borrowed no money. I received no grants , and I had no scholarship. I suffered no ill effects from these experiences. Actually, the work that I did benefited me throughout my life.
The answer, my friends, is that the city of Tupelo cannot borrow tens of millions of dollars through the issuance of bonds without at some time in the future increasing our taxes. The U.S. could not borrow its way to prosperity, nor can Tupelo. A famous evangelist once preached a sermon, the topic of which was Payday Someday. There is always a payday. You and I will be the ones to make the payroll.

Ed Neelly is a former mayor of Tupelo. Contact him at 2014 Strain St., Tupelo, MS 38804.