OUR OPINION: Tupelo gets good economic signals

By NEMS Daily Journal

One of the best indicators of how people are feeling about their economic prospects is how much money they’re spending. Sales tax receipts are a good gauge of that, not to mention a critical component of government budgets.
A year-over-year increase for each of the first six months of the current fiscal year in Tupelo sales tax receipts is about as sure a sign of economic recovery as there can be. It’s the longest such streak of increases since before the severe economic downturn began several years ago and put strains on Tupelo’s city budget, as well as most everyone else’s.
Municipalities get returned to them 18.5 percent of the state sales taxes collected within their borders. As the retail center of Northeast Mississippi, Tupelo has for decades relied on sales tax receipts for the majority of its general fund revenues. This, in turn, has lessened pressure on Tupelo general fund property taxes, which remain relatively low in comparison with other Mississippi cities of significant size.
Tupelo’s renewed retail vitality is a reflection that the city and region may be turning a corner in the economic recovery. Unemployment is down a bit from recessionary highs, people are more optimistic and obviously have more money to spend – or at least feel more confident in spending it.
That’s the good news for the time being. But it can’t be allowed to mask the necessity for Tupelo to continue exploring the kind of targeted investments that can help sustain the city’s economic health.
The limited commitment this year to neighborhood revitalization is a good start. Healthy neighborhoods are essential to an economically stable community.
Other targeted investments in quality of life improvements in the city, which will become more palatable as the budget situation eases a bit, are important to keeping Tupelo an attractive place to live, work and shop.
Tupelo didn’t become the economic engine of Northeast Mississippi by sitting back and letting events and external factors dictate its destiny. The city has a history of anticipating problems and challenges and acting to confront them – well before they become insurmountable. In most cases, solutions have involved public-private partnerships.
Every major project Tupelo has undertaken over the last half century and more has had its naysayers, but the track record has been pretty solid once those projects have come to fruition. City leaders and the community at large need to keep that in mind as they confront the challenges at hand and beyond.
For now, it’s nice to be able to take satisfaction in a trend that clearly reflects an economy – and public confidence – on the upswing.