FY Budget 2015: Pills and Potions

I called this post the pills and potions edition because after looking at the budget that was presented; it's obvious this board is overdosing on something. I can't tell where any real cuts were made to the budget; it seems the same. The fact that the board paid Richard Rose $1, 600 to prepare this budget is a joke. Why do we have a city clerk if she cannot prepare a budget? What is she doing all day other than reading the Lumberton Informer or thinking of her next lie? The board claimed that Richard Rose was doing this out of the goodness of his heart, that he knew the City of Lumberton was not in a position to pay him. So, rather than charging the normal going rate for an embattled city manager that was allegedly terminated for not reporting to work and other matters; Rose decided he will charge the fiscally challenged City of Lumberton a mere $1,600 and a motorcycle. Now, keep in mind, the board never voted to hire Richard Rose but somehow, he received a check and a motorcycle from the City of Lumberton. The motorcycle has since been returned since it was discovered it was paid for with grant monies and had it not been returned, there would have been a BOLO issued for receiving stolen property. As a matter of fact, the name Richard Rose was never mentioned until after he completed the work on the budget. If you listen to the mayor and certain board members, Richard Rose is the next best thing since air conditioning. but if he was so good, why did the City of Diamondhead get rid of him? Only in Lumberton would they embrace a person with a checkered past and tout him around like he's a trophy. The budget that Rose completed, after three weeks of work, is not worth the paper it was printed on. As a matter of fact, I could have prepared a better budget with an abacus, a notepad, a cup of iced coffee and an apple fritter; and it wouldn't have taken three weeks. But, as we all know, the City of Lumberton does not want knowledgeable individuals working in the clerk's office. I might have had a little confidence in the budget presented if there was a millage rate increase; which there was not. The City of Lumberton has no industry and very little revenue. How in the two empty industrial parks do you think you can manage to run a city without any revenue? Do they think they can make bricks without straw? The City of Hattiesburg had the wherewithal to know that they needed a millage rate increase and Hattiesburg had industry, revenue and a good tax base. But the elected officials knew that in order to get their streets repaired, to give much needed raises to their public works employees and to make sure they have enough police officers for public safety, they presented a millage rate increase. This no new taxes route is not going to work in a city that think it can fund everything with water bills. It amazes me that when they were told that there was a possible future deficit in the WSOM account, the board didn't hesitate to raise the garbage and sewer rate but looking at a cash strapped budget, they board does not want to raise the millage rate because people on the board are trying to protect their own interest rather than looking out for what's best for the City of Lumberton.

The mayor and board of alderpersons are scheduled to approve the 2015 budget on Monday, September 15, 2014. I posted a pictures of the budget that was presented; hoping that someone would help me find areas that needed to be addressed. One thing is certain, they board is not getting enough money to cover the money spent on renovations/expansions to the Lumberton airport. According to the proposed budget, we are getting $8,700/year from the Gold Coast Skydivers and we all know what they charge for a skydiving class. I also noticed that the amount allocated to the fire department has doubled. The fire department was once getting $12,000/year for operations but now they have a budget of $24,100. As a matter of fact, they have a capital outlay (purchasing allowance) of $18,200 while the police department has been allocated $12,200 for purchases and the public works department has an allocation of $11,500 for purchases. How did that happen? The budget for personnel services for the public works department is $88,949 with $31,000 budgeted for the department head, leaving $57,949 to cover the 8 or 9 employees in the public works department. According the Alderman Jay McGraw, the board is planning to cut several public works employees because of budget constraints. Not that I want anyone to lose their job but why didn't they lay off employees when they started outsourcing garbage collection. They call can't be cutting grass and based on the large number of piles of tree limbs scattered across the city, they're not picking up them either. So, what are these employees doing all day, other than driving around and since they're leaving the inmates by themselves, to cut grass, what are they doing? Another thing, how can a person be hired as a seasonal worker, for grass cutting purposes, but they're never cutting grass. It seems that old Danny boy is looking for another blonde to take the place of Roy Easley because I guess he cannot imagine allowing a seasoned worker, especially one with pigmented skin, take home a truck. So, the question that needs to be addressed is how many lawn mowers and weed eaters the City of Lumberton own and if the number is not more than 10, they need to make some cuts.....immediately.

Another thing that wasn't addressed was the fact that none of the aldermen were willing to take a pay cut or reduction in insurance coverage. There's all this talk that the city is in dire straights but they are still getting full benefits for doing nothing. As a matter of fact, the mayor will get a pay increase for the 2015 fiscal year. The budget has allocated $15,797 for personnel services (pay) for Mayor Winston; that's roughly $1,316.41/month. The mayor currently receives between $600-$800/month plus full insurance coverage. The board is getting paid to do nothing; one would think they would at least comply with the law since they took an oath and cashing a check every month. That's the least they could do.

During the budget presentation, I asked if the court clerk will resume working 40/week since it's clear that the amount of fines collected has drastically diminished since her hours were cut in half. Unfortunately, the board said her hours will remain the same. I don't understand the logic of that decision. The board accepted the resignation of deputy clerk, Melissa Nightingale, so it would seem logical to eliminate that position since Keenon Johnson works from the clerk's office as well. The busiest time of each month is the 1st-10th; that gives Merlene 20 days to address other work matters. If Merlene is not capable of working that office, without the help of two clerks, then she's not the one for the job. The mayor said that this city needs to run like a business. Well, it doesn't make much business sense to have three clerks in one office. But this is where the pills and potions come in. According to the minutes from the July 15, 2014 board meeting, Merlene told the board, in executive session, that she cannot run the office by herself. As I stated earlier, she's not working the officer by herself, Keenon Johnson is in the office with her. I find it strange that every other department head had to make adjustments to keep their departments afloat. Chief Cowart has been forced to turn in the Tahoe, work a shift and continue to perform administrative duties for the police department, but Merlene can't do anything other than sit in that office and order birthday cakes for the aldermen. Even Danny Davis was forced to take on more responsibilities. He now has to check the lift stations on the weekends and he's doing more field work. I can't understand why Alderman Tommy Dukes wanted to ground the Chief of Police by taking away her take home car but he didn't see a problem with one department (Public Works) having two take home cars; double the fuel cost expenses. Now that I mentioned it, if the overtime has been cut in the public works department and Danny is checking the lift stations on the weekends, why does Roy still have a take home truck? But the matter I'm trying to get clarity on is the fact that everyone is having to roll up their sleeves to try and make the best out of a bad situation but Merlene, the mayor and board of alderpersons are sitting back and essentially telling the masses to deal with it. Interesting. I find it hard to believe that anyone would think that Mrs. Ziffle would make a good city clerk; especially since her primary experience was office manager at a tire store. If the City of Lumberton needed an estimate on tires, I would be the first to say that she's the one for the job, but Merlene has the ability to lie as effortlessly as she breathes, she's lazy and she seemingly has multiple personalities. I think she has a face for each alderman. I don't know what Louisiana mojo she concocted to get the board to support her utter lack of professionalism, but it's time to break this spell so the city can move forward. I don't know if she's delusional, or just dealing with the constrictions of a post menopausal brain, but she's not the one for this city. This is not Hooterville and if we have to pay someone to do her work, then what point is there in having her on the payroll? I have yet to see what she traits she have that makes her a prime candidate for anything other than snake oil salesman. This is the second budget presented under her watch and she has not shown us that she can do the work. At this rate, I think it would have been better if they would have hired Arnold the pig. At least he knew how to stay clean. OAN: The Mississippi Ethics Commission makes it entirely too difficult to file ethics complaints. It seems that they want to deter people from reporting violations to state laws; if not, they would have a more user friendly website. I can't copy and paste; each complaint must be typed separately. Bummer. Gotta do what I gotta do. Enjoy your weekend. Ciao!

Comments

  1. Was told last night that they shut down the local fire department. To be a city aren't required to be able to provide police and fire protection?

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    1. They're supposed to be able to provide police and fire protection but according to the 2015 budget, they have $24,100 allocated for the fire department. So, I don't think it's closing down.

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    2. Maybe Richard Rose rescinded his offer to submit that pre-formatted fire grant since they had to go back and get the motorcycle he was given to prepare the 2015 budget.

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  2. It's small town in Mississippi with less Population than Lumberton and they have 4 Police Officers, with 5 streets. Sincerely look it up. I am sure they have a grant to help with the cost. Grants hmmmmmm????

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  3. I agree, and when I go to the pole it will show!!!!!!

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  4. Just Crazy!!!!!!!!!!

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  5. I still can't believe they tore down that building next to the city hall and are building a dollar store there. That would have been a good building or site for future city office expansion, like a separate police station and jail. Meanwhile many BETTER sites like any old building right in the heart of downtown would have worked fine or could have been torn down for the dollar store, and been a much better location.

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  6. Yes, it was other location that would have been much better for the Dollar Store. I agree with you totally. It would have been nice for Lumberton to have a sepatate police station and jail. I just pray we have better people running for office next time.

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