When I first ran for office in 2013, the “L” in the TUPELO PLAN, which was my campaign platform, stood for “Low Taxes, Limited Spending, & Less Regulation.” I am extremely proud that we have been able to keep that campaign promise over the past eight years.
I am proud to have been a stalwart in opposition to proposed tax increases during my tenure as mayor. The last thing our city and county needs during this precarious time as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic is a local ad valorem tax increase, which would put us at an economic disadvantage and stymie residential growth in our area.
When our administration started in 2013, we held a housing summit and invited local builders and developers to tell us how to improve as a city. We met with business owners and professionals to tell us how to improve as a city. The result was the creation of a “getting to yes” philosophy at city Hall and a streamlined permitting process to get builders and developers their permits within 21 days in most cases.
Over the past 8 years, we have seen a commercial and residential construction boom. Over 680 single family homes have been built in Tupelo in the past eight years, which is a return to pre-2008 development numbers. The last thing we need to do during a time when young people continue to leave Mississippi in record numbers is to make it more expensive to own a home or car in Tupelo. The proposed ad-valorem tax increases will raise every non-exempt property owner’s taxes and every non-antique car owner’s annual tag renewal fee dramatically.
Like operating your business, managing a city is a highly competitive business in an increasingly mobile society. For an employee of NMMC, they can get to work just as quickly from South or North Lee County as they can from many places within the city limits of Tupelo. We have to give people a reason to live in Tupelo — and raising their taxes is not an incentive to increase home ownership or business development in Tupelo.
For businesses, especially as we continue to recover from COVID-19, we must understand that making it more expensive to own and operate a business inside the Tupelo city limits is not the answer. Increased taxes will put our businesses at a competitive disadvantage. The CARES Act, American Rescue Plan, PPP loans, etc. will soon end, and our businesses must be able to remain competitive in a fragile economy. Raising their taxes and cost of doing business would be a terrible mistake.
The financial strength of Tupelo is the envy of the state of Mississippi. Over the last eight years we have protected our bond rating, protected our reserve/rainy day fund, managed our debt, been good stewards of taxpayer dollars and lived within our means with a “pay as you” go philosophy. While doing this we have also made record-breaking investments into our city’s infrastructure and engaged in public-private partnerships which have paid huge dividends for our city. In the past eight years we have made over $100 million of investments in capital projects without raising taxes. We can continue to make substantial investments without raising taxes if we collectively engage in long term and strategic planning where everyone has a voice in the process.
The roadmap for continued success is already in place. Tupelo is poised for even more growth and economic success, which will only be stymied by tax increases and changing policies and procedures that have proven themselves to be successful over the last eight years.