Tupelo’s budgeting process always stimulates some of the best annual discussions about policy, spending and planning among City Council members and the mayor.
Last week, and for several earlier weeks, council members and Mayor Jason Shelton have met several times in shaping Tupelo’s 2014 fiscal year budget, which takes effect Oct. 1 and extends until the following Sept. 30. Department heads and the city’s financial officers have been part of every stage of discussion.
The deadline for adopting a 2014 budget is Sept. 15 for all municipalities and counties. The state’s budget year runs from July 1 to June 30.
The council has set Sept. 7, Saturday, for a work session. As a practical matter most of the budget is likely to be ready for final details afterward.
Some of the most intense discussions so far have revolved around personnel issues. These budget discussions don’t revolve around personalities but on departmental responsibility and job descriptions.
Elected officials and other City Hall leaders also have placed significant emphasis on developing a responsible and reasonable capital budget – a plan for providing the structures, improvements and infrastructure Tupelo needs immediately and in the years following.
The new aquatics center in Veterans Memorial Park is a good example.. Years of conversations, campaigns, public discussion and intense promotion were needed before the City Council agreed to borrow funds through a bond issue (long-term debt). Sometime in 2014 that new facility will open.
Another capital construction issue spins off the aquatics center: the repurposing of Rob Leake City Park, where the existing swimming pool is slated to close for razing…
The plan calls for building a splash pool at City Park, which would appeal to the Joyner Neighborhood, home to many children who would enjoy a splash pool. Ward 2 Councilman Lynn Bryan has suggested building the splash pool ahead of the initial scheduled date (2015), in effect so that City Park maintains its attractiveness and momentum for outdoor recreation.
A first-rate tennis center named after Tupelo tennis legend Puddie Ruff is in the park, but additional choices are needed to draw good crowds as close to year round as possible.
Council members don’t have another public forum scheduled, but any time is a good time to express opinions if you’re a Tupelo resident or taxpayer.
Major capital projects, other than roads and barring natural disaster or other destruction, are almost once-in-a-lifetime expenditures for residents ands taxpayers. Still, a schedule is good fiscal sense even for prosperous cities like Tupelo.