When it comes to talking about annexation, most members of the Greenwood City Council don’t get it.
The reason to annex some of the residential areas lying just outside the city limits is only partially to reverse the picture of a city that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s estimates, is losing people faster than most of Mississippi.
The more compelling reason to annex is to produce equity: that is, to require those who benefit from their proximity to Greenwood to help share in the tax burden of operating it.
There are several neighborhoods that receive electricity and water from the city-owned utility company; they use the city’s parks and streets and benefit from the shopping, dining and entertainment amenities that the city’s infrastructure supports; they rest easy at night knowing that, if there is a fire in their home, Greenwood’s fire trucks will be there to try to save lives and property. And yet, because of the longstanding neglect of the city’s fathers and mothers, these areas don’t pay their fair share in taxes of what it fully takes to operate this city and provide some of these benefits.
These residents outside the city pay user fees, of course, for their water and electricity consumption, just like city residents. But in other ways, they pay less or nothing at all for the benefits they receive from their close proximity to Greenwood.
And that is the inequity that most of the city leaders don’t seem to be too concerned about.
Thus, they say that annexing people from the county doesn’t really accomplish anything because it only shifts population, it doesn’t grow it. They worry about the potential of a minute dilution of the black voting-age population, forgetting that even if that were to occur, the black percentage would still be significantly higher than it was when the city leaders started their pattern of dawdling on annexation decades ago.
Granted, when annexing, it is wise to be careful that the areas brought in will at least break even — that is, produce at least as much in new tax revenue as they cost in additional services — and preferably do better than that. There may be indeed some areas where the streets and drainage are so poor, or their property values so low, that it doesn’t make financial sense to annex them.
But there is no way this is true for all of these outlying neighborhoods. If the City Council and Mayor Carolyn McAdams have the will to annex neighborhoods that will both boost the city’s population and its financial condition, they will find them.
It’s just a matter of having the will to do it, rather than keep coming up with excuses to put annexation on the back burner, as they and their predecessors have repeatedly done.