Getting Closer

By ANTHONY WARREN,

House passes Community Improvement Districts bill

Another hurdle has been cleared in an effort to make community improvement districts (CIDs) a reality.

However, the biggest obstacle – a hostile lieutenant governor’s office – remains.

Recently, the state House of Representatives passed HB 1612, which authorizes the creation of the special taxing districts in Jackson and cities across the state.

Northside leaders are applauding the move, hoping it will put additional pressure on Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves to allow the measure to be brought up for a vote. 

“It’s great news that it passed the House. Now it comes to the Senate,” said District 25 Sen. Walter Michel.

A similar bill introduced by Michel earlier this year has languished in the Senate Local and Private Legislation Committee.

He’s still hopeful his measure will be considered.

CIDs work like this: Neighbors can petition their respective cities to form a district, levy a temporary tax on homeowners within the district, and use the revenues collected from the tax to make improvements specifically within that district.

The idea is popular with Northsiders who look at it as another tool to help preserve property values and fight crime.

“I’m glad to see it come out of the House,” said Northsider Leland Speed, a longtime proponent of CIDs. “Now, it depends on what happens in the Senate.”

Under HB 1612, the districts can be formed one of two ways: HOAs petition their respective cities to form the districts, or municipalities themselves form the districts with enough public support.

Municipalities would be able to create districts in targeted areas, as long as 60 percent of homeowners in the affected area supported the plans, a public hearing was held, and the matter was advertised in the paper before the district was approved.

Homeowners groups interested in applying would have to submit a petition with 60 percent of owners in the affected area signing on. From there, a referendum would be held, where 60 percent of owners in the area again must vote to approve the district.

The bill was authored by Rankin County Rep. Mark Baker. “It’s a real chance for partnership between cities and (residents),” he said.

If approved, the districts could assess up to six additional mills in property taxes, which would be used for various public improvement projects.

The measure was approved on February 28, on a vote of 93 to 22. Those voting in favor included Baker and Northside Rep. Bill Denny. Voting against the measure were Northside Reps. Joel Bomgar and Kathy Sykes.

 

Jackson’s legislative delegation has tried for four years now to get CID legislation passed.

Last year, approximately 30 Northside leaders signed a letter in support of the districts and sent it to lieutenant governor.

However, Reeves has continued to turn a deaf ear.

In 2018, the lieutenant governor openly opposed the bill, saying it was another tax measure, and the measure died in the Senate Finance Committee.

“The lieutenant governor personally knows people who are living on a fixed income and can’t afford to pay six mills more because they already live in one of the highest-taxed jurisdictions in Mississippi,” said Reeves spokeswoman Laura Hipp.

Hipp couldn’t be reached for additional comment.

Efforts to push CIDs through the Senate this year have also stalled.

At press time SB 2897 remained in the local and private committee.

“The chairman has been told not to bring it up yet,” Michel said. “That’s what he told me.”

Local and private is chaired by Sen. Gary Jackson, a Republican who represents Choctaw, Montgomery, Oktibbeha and Webster counties.

Michel wouldn’t say who instructed the chairman to sit on the bill, and Jackson couldn’t be reached for comment.

Michel, the bill’s principal author, introduced the measure at the start of the session, with hopes of having it passed out with plenty of time for consideration by the full Senate.

Before a bill can be voted on by the full chamber, it must first be approved by a Senate committee. Bills are brought up in committee at the discretion of the committee chairman.

Deadline for bills to come out of local and private is March 15, about three weeks before the session ends.

 

SB 2897 was co-authored by District 29 Sen. David Blount and Sens. Hillman Frazier, John Horhn and Sollie Norwood. It had also garnered the support of the Jackson City Council, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba and community leaders from across the capital city.

HB 1612 is also supported by the Mississippi Municipal League.

 

 

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