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Tupelo City Council passes 2014 budget

Reported by: Tyler Hill
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Updated: 9/10/2013 10:52 pm
TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) - Just five days before the deadline, the Tupelo City Council passed Mayor Jason Shelton's 2014 budget at a special call meeting Tuesday.

After weeks of debating and hashing out details, the council passed the budget 5 to 2, making it a supermajority.

"It's a relief that the budget is behind us," Shelton said. "The council and myself can continue working for the citizens of Tupelo."

In the final meeting, it took less than an hour for a vote to take place, however, there was some opposition, and it's something that's been debated since the beginning of budget talks.

In it, Shelton calls for a newly created position for an in-house attorney.

This attorney would replace the Mitchell McNutt & Sams law firm, who has served as the city's legal counsel for over 30 years.

The in-house attorney would make $90,000 annually and would also have some outside legal help when needed, along with an assistant.

Shelton says this could save over $100,000 per year.

"I feel strongly that it would work," Shelton said. "Otherwise, I wouldn't have continued to push that issue."

But councilman Mike Bryan says he doesn't think one attorney would be enough, prompting more hires.

"I'm afraid that it's just going to be a rising cost," Bryan said.

Councilman Buddy Palmer originally opposed the budget for the same reason but changed his mind after compromising with the mayor.

Palmer says his idea is to allow the position of an in-house attorney for at least one full year and, along with city financial officers, monitor the cost.

"I told him," Palmer explained. "If you promise me, that if it is indeed working, I'll be the biggest fan you got, but if it obviously isn't, then we'll choose another direction. He agreed to that, and I thought that was a very good compromise."

Councilman Markel Whittington also opposed the budget, but he says it's primarily because the rising personnel cost among city employees.

"We can't continue that," Whittington said. "It's not sustainable longterm, and we'll get into a situation where we'll never be able to give our employees a raise or do infrastructure improvement if we don't control our personnel costs."

The remaining five councilmen, however, voted for the mayor's vision.

"I'm very satisfied with the budget," said Councilwoman Nettie Davis. "I think we need to strive to try new ideas and new ways of doing things."

The 2014 fiscal year begins October 1st and end September 30, 2014.
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