By NEMS Daily Journal
Lee County’s Board of Supervisors on Monday committed the county’s property taxpayers to even more legal expenses with an appeal of a special judge’s ruling last month allowing Tupelo to annex most of the 16 square miles it sought adjacent to the existing city limits.
The unanimous vote means the county will also be obligated to spend additional sums on its legal expenses, as will the city in supporting the judge’s decision.
Taxpayers in Tupelo who pay a substantial majority of all taxes supporting the county government, will be paying legal bills twice – for the Board of Supervisors’ appeal and for the city to defend the chancellor’s ruling.
The two entities have paid about $800,000 so far fighting the annexation battle, which the Board of Supervisors has waged despite the fact that each supervisor has constituents living within Tupelo’s city limits.
The city seeks the annexation to provide more land for residential and commercial development with the protections of zoning and comprehensive public services, which unincorporated areas of the county lack, in most cases.
The fact remains that if Tupelo’s ability to grow is stifled the whole county will suffer the consequences.
The annexation approved in November by Chancellor Edward Prisock of Louisville would take in about 2,500 people and thousands of acres.
It should be remembered that tax revenues from inside Tupelo in large measure pay for services provided by the county only in unincorporated areas. Yet, the Board of Supervisors insists on a strategy that could boomerang and harm the county’s ability to provide necessary services in the unincorporated areas primarily served by board policy and action.
Cities like Tupelo (and other municipalities in Lee County, and elsewhere) cannot remain vital if they are constrained in the long term by fixed boundaries. Cities either grow and thrive or they disintegrate for failure to incorporate their natural growth zones, as the judge decided in this case.
There’s no such thing as standing still and not simultaneously slipping backwards relative to progress.
None of the land would be wiped off the county’s tax rolls, and if past patterns hold their course, the value will increase, which means more revenue for the county in the long term.
The appeals process likely will run for months – possible more than a year, and that will be politically convenient for supervisors, who face re-election next year if they all seek an additional term.
Prisock found that Tupelo clearly met the requirements of state law on most of its annexation request. While the higher court could overturn Prisock’s decision, the chief beneficiary of the appeal will be lawyers whose fees are now apparently guaranteed for a while longer.