/Clarksdale vote on infrastructure improvements advances despite legislative setback

Clarksdale vote on infrastructure improvements advances despite legislative setback

Numerous pieces of legislation were filed in preparation for the election. However, they never saw the light of day in the Legislature and each died in committee. But that didn’t stop the city leaders from looking for other ways to allow residents to vote. The fate of one issue is up to the taxpayers. This was the case with the proposed 5 millage tax hike for infrastructure, sidewalk, lighting and flood issues. Commissioners and the mayor spoke at this week’s regular board meeting. Officials stated that the city leaders decided to use its urban renewal bonds capacity and get input from residents about whether or not to hold a referendum. Clarksdale Mayor Chuck Espy stated that “we have done our due diligence,” they have done their homework and are now ready to get to work. The 2019 legislative session was over. State Rep. Orlando Paden (D-Clarksdale) and Senator Robert Jackson (D-Marks) submitted multiple bills for legislative consideration – House Bill 1368 and House Bill 774, Senate Bill 2304 and Senate Bill 2280. These bills would have allowed voters to disband the CPU commission. All of the bills were defeated in committee. Espy stated that dealing with the CPU commission bill now would be too difficult and a headache. Another bill that was proposed would have allowed the city to levy an additional tax on infrastructure improvement. It was also rejected by committee. The city originally proposed issuing bonds to raise $17 million for capital improvements, including paving, construction, and improving streets, sidewalks, and bridges. It also proposed to repair and improve storm drainage and sewerage system. Espy said that the “ballpark figure” was now $5 million. This does not include five priority projects, such as the Second Street Bridge, Pearson Street homes, and homes in the Sassee Street drainage region. Click here to view the priority projects of Clarksdale. Espy stated that there were some items that we couldn’t do at the moment and they need to find funding mechanisms. “It’s certainly not that we didn’t leave anyone out, but we must prioritize to where water would hit the doors or in the houses.” Espy stated that the city will use its authority through the Quality of Life Commission to issue an urban renewal bond rather than a general obligation bond. The Quality of Life Commission is responsible for creating an Urban Renewal Plan and issuing bonds. According to state statute, there are two types of debt that cities can issue. They can only issue debt up to 15% of your taxable value, or 20%. Nnamdi Thompson, Government Consultants, Inc., stated that the urban renewal bonds will fall within this 20 percent column. What does Clarksdale’s 5 mills look for taxpayers? The assessed value of a $50,000 house would be 10% of that amount, or $5,000. The taxpayer would be responsible for $25 per year or $2.08 per month. The mayor and commissioners will adopt a resolution in May to authorize a public hearing on approval of an Urban Renewal Plan. They also plan to raise the millage rate. A public hearing will take place in May. The resolution will be adopted and a special election called for August. Espy stated that even though we have legal authority to hold a referendum, we wanted to go before the people to get permission to use tax dollars to improve your city.