Jackson leaders want residents to have another tool to improve their homes and neighborhoods, while the city itself wants another tool to collect on unpaid municipal court fines.
The city’s 2018 legislative agenda includes four items, including resolutions urging lawmakers to pass legislation authorizing community improvement districts (CID) and legislation that would allow the city to collect unpaid court fines through the state tax system.
The wish list was crafted after the administration met with city department heads and members of the Jackson delegation.
“The mayor’s office and our lobbyist reached out to the directors of each department and asked them, ‘What do you need?’ ” Ward Seven Councilwoman Virgi Lindsay said. “We had some very good dialogue and came up with an agenda that supports the city’s priorities.”
Among priorities, Jackson will again ask the state to back the creation of CIDs.
Under previous CID legislation, homeowner groups would be able to petition the city to form special districts, and then levy a special assessment on homeowners within that district to pay for public improvements, such as beautification.
“Neighborhoods all across the city have an interest in creating community improvement districts, so they can enhance and improve the areas in which they live,” she said.
Last year, leaders representing nearly 30 neighborhood and community groups signed a petition urging Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves to support the measure. However, CID legislation was double-referred and died in the Senate Finance Committee.
Supporters hope the fact that 2019 is an election year, Reeves will be pressured into supporting the legislation, which is popular with many Northsiders.
Another resolution passed by the council would allow the state to help municipalities to collect unpaid court fines through the Mississippi Department of Revenue.
“If you have been fined through a municipal court and we haven’t been able to collect, this would enable cities to ask the Department of Revenue to collect the money through state income taxes,” Lindsay said. “Your refund would be less court fines.”
Under the measure, the state would be allowed to keep 5 percent of any fines collected to cover administrative costs.
While Jackson wants to collect on unpaid fines, the city wants the power to write off customers’ bad water debt.
The city is asking the state to pass legislation that would allow them to adjust, release or cancel customers’ payments under certain circumstances, including cases where the customer is “disproportionately impoverished” and unable to pay.
Under state law, Jackson cannot legally cancel that debt and must carry it over year after year on its books.
The resolution was passed at the request of Public Works Director Robert Miller. Miller wasn’t immediately available for comment, and it was not clear how much bad water debt the city currently has on its books.
Finally, Jackson is backing legislation to create “land banks.”
Land banks are “public authorities created to efficiently acquire, hold, manage and develop tax-foreclosed property” in the best interest of the community, according to city documents.
The council is backing the measure largely to address some 4,000 dilapidated, blighted and abandoned properties and to curb urban flight.
“These troublesome areas have become targets for illegal dumping and breeding grounds for criminal activities … The inability to adequately address these problems has caused some residents and businesses to leave the city of Jackson, resulting in a loss to the city’s tax base.”