Jason Shelton

JASON SHELTON

On every level of government during each election you will see candidates, myself included, campaign on promises of being “fiscally conservative.” Yet, on the state level we continue to see increasing debt and the inability (unwillingness) to fund our public schools and re-build our infrastructure. On the federal level, we have recently seen exploding annual deficient levels and ballooning debt due to the current unsustainable taxation and spending polices. This irresponsible budgeting creates a national concern and future instability. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office: “[i]n CBO’s projections, deficits remain large by historical standards, and federal debt grows to equal 93 percent of GDP by 2029.” This must be addressed by our nation.

In creating budgets on every level, math matters, and what is more important than being a self-professed “fiscal conservative” is to actually be “fiscally responsible.” One must take a sincere look at both revenue and expenses and then make prudent choices on how the tax dollars are spent. It has been said that politics itself is the allocation of scarce resources and is a fundamental reason as to why each and every election in our democracy matters to every citizen.

As elected officials our greatest responsibility is to be sound stewards of the citizens’ tax dollars. Our job is to make sound decisions that benefit the community as a whole, not slash revenue while maintaining or increasing spending and certainly not by diverting public funds to private schools or other private entities which take valuable resources away from our public schools and the general public.

Due to strong leadership in the past and a steadfast guide in budget and accounting, Tupelo has a great history of being financially sound and not diverting public funds for private use. We have utilized fundamental accounting principles and lived within our means as a city. As mayor, I will do everything in my authority to continue this prudent course.

Our administration’s job was made easier in the budget process by the previous administration and council’s creation of a capital plan for the city where we prioritize and undertake long range planning for the purchase of big ticket items. Our implementation of this type of planning simplifies the budget process and reduces the need for tax increases or cutting other services to pay for something like a new fire engine or repair a deteriorating municipal building.

What was missing from the capital plan in 2013 that our administration and the city council addressed was a continual source of funding. Our council voted in the fall of 2013 to take each year’s excess revenue or end of year budget surplus and transfer those funds to pay for the city’s capital plan. Due to our department heads “culture of savings” and a robust local economy, we have been extremely fortunate to have an end-of-year budget surplus for each of the past six years and have transferred just under $11.5 million to the capital plan to help fund the projects.

The council’s approval of this proposal is one of our greatest successes over the past six years. This decision has allowed us to maintain our reserve fund at the same level as when we took office in 2013 and facilitate our “pay-as-you-go” philosophy to reduce the need for taking on additional debt to pay for routine items.

Our council’s adoption of the “fiscally responsible” recommendations of our budget and accounting team and financial advisors to provide continual funding for the capital plan will continue to pay dividends for our city for years to come.

JASON SHELTON is the mayor of Tupelo.

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