OUR OPINION: Voters will determine Corinth's infrastructure

By NEMS Daily Journal

Corinth’s elected leaders laid out the specifics of their aldermen-approved infrastructure improvement plan at a public hearing on Tuesday, and if the 12-mill, $5 million, five-year plan is approved street improvements would be made in every ward on routes identified as priorities by the Board of Aldermen.
Voters will decide the issue in an Aug. 21 referendum. Only voters registered for City of Corinth elections can cast ballots. The proposal, unlike a voter-approved program in Tupelo, is not focused exclusively on major thoroughfares but on existing streets, most of which would receive overlay but not necessarily widening or other enhancements.
Dozens of streets – some in each of the city’s five electoral wards – would be improved within the five-year program’s revenue stream. Statistics released by the city show $3.636 million designated for “paving/milling/overlay” and lesser amounts for property clean-up, planning, drainage projects, ADA-design sidewalks, signage and aesthetic improvements.
The Future Fare Proposal document distributed Tuesday shows the city with four major revenue sources:
• $5.3 million from sales taxes;
• $2.254 million from ad valorem (property) taxes;
• $520,000 from franchise fees; and
• $444,320 from municipal court fines.
The 2012 city budget is noted at $9.4 million, about $800,000 less than the $10.02 million in 2008.
City officials noted at Tuesday’s meeting that the regular revenue stream cannot support a bond issue and that the city has no strategic cash reserves. Corinth is not dead in the water. While it has lost jobs to former mainstay industries moving offshore or closing, its business and industrial recruitment is aggressive, with notable successes like the recent announcement of Caterpillar’s expansion.
Adequate infrastructure is necessary for economic expansion, neighborhood stability, strong property values and population growth.
Widespread research draws generally strongly similar conclusion about infrastructure:
• A strong street network gives households easier access to jobs, better opportunity for shopping, and reliable access to health and human services. Well-maintained streets can reduce personal vehicle repair costs.
• Transportation spending benefits and energizes cities.
• Good streets are important in places depending on tourism, as Corinth does for its still-expanding Civil War heritage trails and sites.
• Good streets enhance the possibility of landing conferences, trade shows, everyday business meetings and regional social events.
• Good streets are safer.
Corinth’s elected leaders have designed an infrastructure program specifically addressing a range of needs that are not affordable under the existing revenue structure.
Infrastructure investment almost always stimulates a payoff. Future Fare creates Corinth’s opportunity.