OUR OPINION: Balanced reserve spending strengthens city’s assets

By NEMS Daily Journal

Tupelo’s elected leaders – the City Council and Mayor Jack Reed Jr. – adopted three significant, long term initiatives last week to improve the quality of life and help overcome neighborhood challenges threatening the marketability of property in two areas bordering West Jackson Street.
Reed was the point man in advocating the purchase of a declining apartment building at the corner of West Jackson Street and Clayton Avenue. The property, which has been the scene of numerous crime reports and police actions, is seen as pivotal in reclaiming the residential area from Jackson southward to Blair Street from further blight. Additional investment is planned during the next two budget cycles, including purchase and demolition of blighted homes and buildings, followed by redevelopment involving developers and new, affordable housing targeted at a young adult market. City Clark Kim Hanna said Tuesday’s action authorized spending $1.39 million from reserve funds, with a total of approximately $1.8 million including budgeted funds for 2013.
The spending, a special budget amendment, will begin a longer-term neighborhood redevelopment pilot project for West Jackson. The project will not be completed within the budget year, but the city will take possession of the eight-unit apartment building by Jan. 31 and assist current residents in relocating.
The project is expected to help prevent future extension of blighted properties into the nearby Joyner neighborhood, which extends from West Jackson northward and includes Joyner Elementary School, several churches and the Rob Leake City Park and the Puddie Ruff Tennis Center.
A separate budget action approved spending $969,000 from unrestricted reserve funds to add more streets to the annual repaving and improvement program, bringing the total of $1.8 million. Streets in all seven wards are included, and two streets in the newly annexed area in urgent need of upgrades are on the approved list.
Also approved was a clarification to the city rental code, setting an annual expiration date for rental agreements between the city and property owners, plus adding specificity to the timeline for penalties stemming from violations of the rental code. The larger idea is to raise the standards of rental property citywide, a move that improves marketability and value in the long term.
Ward 1 Councilman Markel Whittington made a strong summary statement of support for the week’s decisions.
“This council doesn’t need to be known as the one that let the city die with the most money in the bank.”
Chief Financial Officer Lynn Norris said remaining reserves are well in excess of the three-month expenditure level recommended for municipalities.
The spending is prudent and in the city’s best interest.