Growth for prosperity
importance of tax base
T upelo's expanding downtown skyline anchored by steel framework of a new City Hall marks the first major construction project on the reclaimed fairgrounds property.
The $3.37 million project (excluding furnishings and equipment) proves wrong those who insisted the first rivets and bricks would never be seen on the rapidly evolving development. Debbie Brangenberg, the city's official liaison for the fairgrounds and head of the Downtown Tupelo/Main Street Partnership, characterized as positive and optimistic announcements in the near term of diverse private-sector investment.
Fairgrounds investment, guided by the Tupelo Redevelopment Agency, is projected at $67 million.
Mayor Larry Otis' statements Monday about declining sales tax revenues (projected at $1.3 million in the city's current fiscal year) tie directly to the critical importance of an expanding in-town property tax base. The concept of "in-fill" developing existing and available spaces within corporate limits offers potentially greater benefits because infrastructure and service extension costs aren't as great as for annexations.
Tupelo's abundant sales taxes (generated out of proportion to the city's size because of its regional center status) tends to hold down property taxes. If sales tax revenue falls, the city must cut expenses, as Otis announced Monday, or look for new revenue. Property tax increases are out of the picture for general revenue because of last year's countywide reappraisal. New revenue from tax base growth is the achievable alternative.
Revenue downturns related to the larger economic picture sometimes shed a brighter light on the necessity of growing, not increasing, the most reliable source of municipal public revenue: property taxes.
The concept of increasing the tax productivity of property available within city limits goes hand-in-glove with private-sector investment and profit. The fairgrounds redevelopment puts private-sector investment on the top rung because it provides jobs, retail sales and entertainment sales and, coming full circle, additional sales tax revenue.
The fairgrounds flows with a national movement discouraging urban sprawl when possible, which has the support of the National Governors Association and the Bush administration.
Responsible urban development doesn't preclude urban expansion. Tupelo needs room to grow outward as well as within existing space, so planning toward annexation remains necessary.
Fairgrounds redevelopment, however, remains an immediate, diverse, and obvious choice for growing the tax base and prosperity.