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Candidates for Alderman share stances on city finances

There are six candidates running for Poplarville’s five member Board of Aldermen and the Item spoke with them about their fiscal priorities.

Byron Wells

Wells said if elected he would need to examine the budget before considering how city funds should be spent. That will help him determine what the budget can accomplish based on how much tax funding is already committed.

He said he knows street paving needs to be done, and believes the main spending focus should be on the fire department, the police department, streets and improving water lines.
Wells said the town needs a long term economic development plan.

He is not in favor of raising taxes and said when he was previously in office the only tax raise he supported was a two percent tax on prepared meals, which was used to buy a fire truck.

Kevin Tillman

Tillman believes city funds should be focused on city department needs not wants. Tillman added that he believes City Clerk Jane O’Neal has done an excellent job of helping the Board understand what it can afford to spend.

“We know we need a new fire truck. We’ve had so many problems. If we could afford it, that would be one of the first things I would vote on to get a dependable fire truck, a ladder truck.”

As soon as funds are available, Tillman thinks continuing to repair damaged city streets should be prioritized. He also believes the city needs to refurbish old water lines.

“If the funding is there, I want the citizens to know that we’re going to attack these roads very, very hard. We’re going to make our rounds and go through each and every neighborhood.”

Tillman is not in favor of raising taxes given the financial hardship the pandemic has placed on people, but might support a small increase if businesses and people in the community were flourishing.

Anne Smith

Smith said she thinks the city should prioritize spending funds on the city’s weaknesses, like equipment for the fire department. She wants to make sure equipment for city departments is up-to-date and wants to make sure employees in those departments are compensated well.

Smith also wants more streets in disrepair to be paved and would like to get several sidewalks widened. She also believes grant funds could be found to improve city water lines.

Smith believes the city of Poplarville needs strong online marketing to reflect the city’s quaint downtown. She also wants to ensure the city’s downtown is preserved.

Smith does not support any tax increases because she believes that could create hardship for citizens.

Bobby Nestle

Nestle said he believes more work needs to be done on the streets and infrastructure in Poplarville. Nestle said he realizes the city budget is tight, but believes there could be grant opportunities to help fund more road work.

Nestle would like the local government to facilitate economic development by making the city more attractive to new businesses. He said that reducing regulations and restrictions, along with any costs the city could reduce for opening a business, could attract more businesses to open.

Nestle does not support raising any taxes on necessities, because he believes that would not help the community grow. If the city could separate out and specifically tax luxury items like cigarettes and alcohol at a higher rate, he would support that.

Russell Miller

Miller said much of the city budget has to be dedicated to personnel. He said he believes the city needs to continue devoting a large piece of the budget to infrastructure.

“We decided if we can’t fix the road properly, we’re not just going to pave over it and it fall in in the next five or 10 years,” said Miller. “That’s where our budget has got to be is to get our infrastructure up so that we can attract businesses to town.”

Miller wants to see the city make it easier to walk from the college to downtown with better sidewalks and improved lighting.

He does not support any tax raises, except as a last resort. Miller believes taxes in the city are already high.

Daniel Brown

Brown said he plans to approach spending city funds with an open mind, depending on where the city is at in the budget, and the short and long-term implications of the proposed expenses.

“I need to take into account the citizens who put me into office, if I told them I spent X amount of dollars on this initiative, how would they feel about it?”

Brown said he drives around the city and notes issues that need to be addressed, so that when it is time for budget planning, repairs can be made equitably in different parts of the community.

Brown said if there were any tax raises proposed, he would want to know the short and long-term implications and how citizens who put him in office felt before voting on it.

“That’s almost a loaded question, if we raised taxes why are we raising them? And there would have to be a very good reason. We’re one of the higher tax cities in the area,” he said.

Election Dates

Primary Election Day will be April 6. If needed, a runoff will be held April 27.
The general election will be June 8, and winners will begin their terms in municipal office July 1.

To cast a ballot in the primary, voters had to have been registered by March 8. To cast a ballot in the general election, voters should be registered by May 10. Voters can check the status of their voter registration at sos.ms.gov/vote or by calling the Circuit Clerk’s office.