The $600,000 Question
At the last board meeting, Alderwoman Cora Rogers was one of the first board members to cry that they couldn't hire any additional police officers because they didn't know what was in the budget. Aldermen Jay McGraw and Quincy Rogers were pushing to hire officers because the city is not equipped with adequate police protection. They also stressed that the shooting incident was just a sign of things to come unless some tough decisions were made. Needless to say, the mayor and other board members were not moved by the shooting incident to approve adequate police protection. It wasn't until I looked over the budget, thought about what was said and looked over the agenda that I realized I was missing the forrest for the trees. Every time there's a motion to hire police officers the standard response is we don't know what's in the budget. Last month, Cora Rogers tried to explain why she was against hiring more police. She gave this cock and bull story about not wanting to put her bond at risk. Let's analyze that stance. At the beginning of the meeting, most board members declared they didn't know if there was enough money in the budget to hire part time police officers. During that same meeting, they voted to pay $41,448.13 from the general fund for unpaid claims and another $19,789.75 from the general fund for paid claims for a total of $61,237.98 from a budget they're not sure about. So the board has enough confidence to approve payments over $60,000 but don't want to risk their bonds to pay part time police officers $10.50/hour.
If that's not enough, look at the picture from the budget left on my patio. It's a snapshot from the general fund budget. In case you didn't know, the police officers are paid from the general fund and the money they collect is deposited into the general fund account. If you would look at line 000-212 General Sales Tax. Well, the budget projected that $155,000 would be collected. Look at the middle column and it shows the actual amount collected was $329,244.88 with an overage of $184,244.88. Every month, the mayor is proclaming that the city is broke but tens of thousands are spent from the general fund every month without concern about the status of their bonds. As far as we know, there's never been a check returned or payroll check declined due to insufficient funds, so there's apparently money available but not for the police department. It seems there's money for security camers, installation of security cameras, and money available for the MML Conference (which includes registration fees, mileage, hotel accommodations and per diem). But they can't approve $10.50/hour for part time police officers.
Keep in mind, attending every MML Conference is not required. But hey, they landed embattled former city manager Richard Rose at the last meeting but it cost the city an additional $1,600 that was never budgeted. I can't wait to see who they'll find at the bar during the Summer session of the MML Conference. Sarcasm intended. Unless I'm reading this public record incorrectly. Was this the public record used by Winston and McGraw to show that Lumberton was fiscally stable enough to repay a $600,000 loan? Nah, couldn't be. I remember Winston saying they had access to the budget in Jackson on their computer and they, whoever that may be, pulled it up. Anywho, at this point, it's pure conjecture and I'm certain that our trusted elected officials wouldn't finagle a report to deceive anyone. Again, sarcasm intended. Whatever the case may be, according to the public records that shows they were printed on 5/14/2015, money is available. The $600,000 question is where did the money come from and why is it being hidden?