Knee jerk calls for Bay tax increases making a bad situation worse: An Editorial

Folks I’ve been very busy all week in the day job but have monitored the slow motion financial meltdown of the City of Bay St Louis, a problem that has been literally years in the making.

Last year during the election then Mayoral candidate Jeff Harding had the city’s financial problems well identified. His claims were dismissed, buried in the re-election campaign of lies told by the Mayor Les Fillingame which contended the City was financially sound, a meme Hizzoner would keep repeating until late Spring of this year when he revealed the City would default on its Water and Sewer Bonds unless they were refinanced immediately, a move that left the City almost $200,000 further in debt. By that time, per the 2013 single audit report, the City’s Water and Sewer fund accumulated deficit was well over $400,000. The City has been broke for over a year.

Before the Mayor finally came somewhat clean on the financial problems in the Water and Sewer Fund, in January Slabbed did a detailed analysis of the reckless, irresponsible budget practices that got the City to this point.  City spending on the Mayor’s friends and family program has ballooned while basic city services deteriorated.  How many City Council meetings has the inability of the Grapple Truck to run a regular schedule been discussed since April? How management can say in MD&A in the 2013 audit that the City delivers a high level of City services goes well beyond imagination to sheer fantasy. The money leakage is multifaceted as Jennifer Lenain explains for today’s Sun Herald:

He also questioned the council on why the assistant police chief would be driving a city owned vehicle while she is out on vacation, sick leave or workers’ compensation. “I’m fed up that I’ll have a tax increase because of this,” he said.

Its worse though because the 2013 Single Audit report also disclosed that in June, 2014, over $97,000 in customer meter deposits were transferred from the meter deposit account into the Water and Sewer operating account. Based upon the cash balances at July 31, 2014 this money was certainly then expended on claims. Simply put, City spending is out of control.

Bay St Louis is a small town and people talk.  Where is the electric bill on the August claims docket? Withheld just like 2013 because the City has no funds to pay its trade vendors and certain vendors are again complaining.  The whisper number for unrecorded liabilities approaches $500,000 including the Hancock County Solid Waste Authority which Slabbed is told is owed in excess of $32,000 by the City despite Clerk Kolf’s assertion Tuesday night the City was current on that particular bill when challenged by the City council.

So, for all you pundits that think it is past time the City went up on its water bills and property taxes the question I ask is how much?  Before you answer though you need to understand that in order to answer that question correctly, you gotta know where you stand financially when you pull the trigger.

Who are we believe to believe, the Mayor and the City Clerk who have consistently mislead the public and City Council or your own lying eyes? Now is not the time to panic and compound the problems by giving a spendthrift more money to throw away, especially when there are amazingly still certain City council members that openly dismiss the State Auditor’s office recommendation that a City should have 3 months of expenditures in reserve.

Speaking of reserves the bottom line is the City would not have spent close to $200,000 refinancing debt on the verge of defaulting had the City maintained a reserve. Such is the cost of the imbecilic financial decision making. I seriously doubt the City Council conducts their personal financial affairs in such a reckless fashion, especially my City councilman, whose spouse is a respected banker. The public deserves exactly the same.

19 thoughts on “Knee jerk calls for Bay tax increases making a bad situation worse: An Editorial”

  1. Doug,
    Between the Sun Herald article this morning and the city council meetings themselves, it’s like one citizen said to me this past Tues. when he walked out mid-meeting,” I can’t take anymore. This is a reality show. They all know what has to be done and won’t do it.”
    One of the 7 could make a personal request of the State Auditor if they really wanted to serve the public and their money.
    The chances of that are rare to none.
    In one word, the status of the city is” SAD

    1. I’ve felt that way coming out of a couple of the meetings myself. I thought Jennifer did a great job with her story.

  2. She did. I told Harding a while back, “You didn’t get to be Mayor, but you sure got to be right.”
    Wonder if this council would report a crime on the street if they witnessed one?

  3. Good news for the taxpayers! Jackson heard the Sunhearld report today! Mark my word I had a pulse on the City then and I’ve got the feeling now. Tune in Friday after 5pm to 103.5 for the Pool party with the politically incorrect POOLMAN!

  4. Well, I see now Waveland is being mentioned in the Bay St. Louis financial disaster reporting as a model of how to come out of a bad situation and turn it around.
    The auditors, Sea Coast Echo, and the Sun Herald all may appear to have a valid point for a quick fix for the Bay’s woes with an increase in millage and utility fees, but wait a second, let’s look at what really happened in Waveland. And, Randy Ponder from the Echo should know. He’s a resident of and voter there. He neglected to make the most valid point in his Editorial on Wednesday, Aug. 6.
    The citizens of Waveland did not just see an increase in fees, they made a change in who was handling their money. And, therein lies the real reason for Waveland’s recovery.
    The voters fired the Mayor who got us in trouble, and the Board of Aldermen fired the City Clerk who helped the Mayor get us in trouble. If that hadn’t happened we might still be in the same dire circumstances or worse.
    Case in point–everyone is saying the answer to the Bay’s problem in their utility department is an increase in fees–well, that happened last October, 2013–and guess what, Brenda Ford, the manager of the Solid Waste Office says she is still not getting paid. Are you getting the picture? More money in the same hands is not the answer.
    Doug Seal claims that 97.1% of the Bay’s users pay each month. Well, using those figures, Brenda should at least be receiving 97.1% of what they owe for picking up garbage instead of $00.00. I confirmed this with her. It is not heresay. Why is Waste Pro expected to keep running trucks, paying for drivers and trucks and not being paid ANYTHING? I doubt Mr. Boudin would run his waste business that way, and no one should expect him to. Solid Waste has a docket to pay too, just like the Bay.
    So, that increase last Oct. of 2013 didn’t solve anything because it landed right in the same hands to manage, and those same hands are there for the next 3 years.
    If the Council in the Bay raises fees and millage, they should devise some procedure and format to see that the fees on those utility bills go to the agencies providing the services. If they don’t or can’t then they are part of the problem, not the solution.
    By the way, is the Council EVER going to ask the Mayor and City Clerk in public forum what they did with those designated fees on everyone’s bills? The citizens who sent that money to City Hall deserve an answer before they have to pay the loan at the First Bank to cover that prank.
    So, I say this to Ponder and the Sun Herald–As a citizen of Waveland–the solution to our problem was new officials handling our money, and the never to be forgotten volunteer spirit of the people of Waveland who worked in positions for gratis in city hall after the firings, furloughs, and cut backs.
    We had the intestinal fortitude to give ourselves new leaders and demand the right leadership.
    Nothing will change in the Bay because they squandered that opportunity last election.

    1. Waveland made significant spending cuts – they had to as there is no provision to finance prior year general fund deficits with debt that I am aware. Water and Sewer is a different story which is why rates went up so much in Waveland.

      Mayor Fillingame contends the City is cut to the bone when the plain read of the 2014 amended budget shows the only department cut to the bone is Buddy Zimmerman’s public works department. Meantime Hizzoner and his cronies command an ever increasing share of the City’s payroll.

      I’ve heard Buzz Olsen’s name mentioned here in comments as an example of the type of relatively high dollar salary the city could get by without. Buzz has had defenders also leave comments here in his support. Meantime I have Old Town Merchants emailing me pictures of Buzz at various locations in the first block of Main Street and the Harbor sitting down smoking cigarettes shooting the breeze with locals.

      The problem is one of misplaced priorities IMHO. We need more ditch diggers and grass mowers and fewer administrative salaries. Instead we get the exact opposite.

      Meantime Hizzoner is still pushing the OST sidewalk project which requires a $400,000 up front match. The disconnect from reality is stunning.

      1. Buz Olsen is a wasted salary for an snobbish man, who thinks he is indispensable. Neither he nor his assistant do enough to warrant their salaries. The scuttlebutt is that neither had anything to do until the Harbor kicked into gear, and now that the ribbon has been cut, they are back to “milking the machine.” Matt Karl is another wasted salary. The talk is he was hired because he was in the Weemer camp, and he does nothing besides the occasional ballpark maintenance. He depends on the man that has run the ballpark for years to do HIS job. Wonder why he no longer works as a drug enforcement officer…Katherine Smith is running amok. She and David Kolf do the same job, make the same salary and the jobs should be done by one person who is able to be nice to people, and she’s not it. They work for the CITIZENS. Be nice or go home.

    2. Two things…it’s WASTE MANAGEMENT, not WASTE PRO (which we SHOULD have contracted with, but somebody’s pockets are being filled at the County level) and it’s TESTICULAR FORTITUDE, which NO ONE seems to have.

  5. So Poolman and haddanuff and Doug thank you for everything.
    There may be light at the end of the tunnel. We could be so thankful if someone does start investigating.

    I do hope someone hears our concerns. What I don’t understand is why one of the City councilman does not contact Jackson and make a request?? Why are they so afraid.

    Reading the Sea Coast Echo editorial makes me want to cancel my subscription. The opinion that we should raise taxes and costs of services is totally appalling.
    The Mayor need to clean his house and make an effort and then the citizens of Bay St. Louis may support increased taxes.. But NOT until he makes an effort as the NEW Waveland mayor did.
    I’d like to give all my friends jobs, but not at the cost of the taxpayers. Plus most of them aren’t even qualified for the positions from what I hear.
    The salaries of some employees will totally amaze you. I wish someone would publish them for all to see. Then maybe people will support what the Alliance, Poolman and Slabbed has been saying.
    Maybe the people will realize that Jeff was correct during the election about the finances of the city and know Mr. Mayor for the not so truthful person he is. He made the public believe his version of the budget was accurate and not the other candidates. I sure hope all can see who was telling the truth now.
    I can’t wait until it all comes crashing down on him.
    Please Jackson hurry down here.

    1. When the Echo mentioned Waveland and omitted the draconian cuts they lost me. The longer the financial shell game Hizzoner is playing goes on, the worse the cuts will be when the house of cards falls.

      Right now, if you look at the level of local ad valorem tax revenue the City is likely to realize in FY 2015 and understand the scale of the trade payables that are not recorded on the books, we’re approaching somewhere between 17% and 25% of next years Ad valorem revenues. You can’t operate a City when you’re that far behind the 8 ball out of the gate.

  6. Randy Ponder literally makes a fool out of himself in his editorial when he says “the problem is not about what the mayor did or did not do.” When the mayor & clerk withhold information from the council on accounts payable, sit there and declare that all accounts are current, and divert designated utility funds from the vendors to whom they are payable without authorization of the council, it is ALL about what the mayor does and does not do, him and his right hand man, the clerk.
    Read the audit, Randy, or better yet, publish it as public service to the city where your business is located.
    You can start with pages 67 & 68 on Journal Entries and maybe you’ll think twice about your editorial.
    Or better yet, in the future, study the audit for what real professionals have to say before you make a fool out of yourself defending the indefensible.

    1. I still don’t get what you are trying to accomplish. You don’t live in BSL, so quit stirring the pot. Alliance for Good Government is a shady front for for your nastiness. Your brother isn’t on the Council anymore, so butt out.

  7. Good for you Haddanuff !!
    When the Media starts publishing the truth and not the rhetoric they want the people to believe we will be well served.

    Mr. Ponder I have to agree with haddanuff 100%. I would have thought a man of your position would not write an opinion and publish it without the proper facts.

    We now not only have a city adminstration that is dysfunctional, but a newspaper that we depend on to give us current, honest and accurate facts. I don’t think there is one person living here that would not mind paying a little more, but first lets cut some of the budget and see if that works.

    Boy is this city going down.

    1. Without facts or proper English… Check your verbs, Mr. Ponder. If you were in my English class, you would not be getting an “A”..shame on YOU, too.

  8. Exactly, Disgusted. In Waveland, we had a fee increase ( yall had that last Oct., and you could have another small one this Oct.) but CUTS have to be done too. They can’t just stick it to their captive audience, the taxpayers, every time they want more money to play with–other people’s at that.
    When we moved to Waveland in 2004, our first utility bill was in Dec. and it was $49.30. The one I just paid for Aug. was $87.61. That is 9 yrs. and 9 mos. An increase of about $4.25 a year. But the clincher is mine goes to pay my utilities. My Mayor and City Clerk aren’t taking it a doing “something else??” with it and then having to run to The First Bank and make a loan for ME to pay so they can finally send my wastewater and garbage pick up to the utility authorities.
    That’s the problem in the Bay–management–not inadequate fees. But, it is hard for the people who know what is going on to want to keep giving more and more money to the same people to p—- away!

  9. Breaking News. I just played a voice mail from Tommy whom works for the City of Bay St. Louis building department. The time stamp in 3:34 pm friday. Mr Tommy just doing his job said that
    the City of Bay St Louis revoked the business privilege license for Gulf Coast Pools llc to do business in the city. I am going to go in on monday morning and ask the non- certified building official to READ me the violations. Isn’t a great country when the mayor can pass down the chain of his command orders to shut down a company without first a written notice!!! Get this then he will have the cities
    non insured attorney ole Donny boy talk to the Judge of the city, who by the way had a $6 water bill and a .04 garbage bill give the city justice. Hey no worries for me I’ve retained George Healy III the same attorney that just received a judgement against the City of Waveland for $700,000.00. ON A LIGHTER NOTE THE STATE AUDITOR MR.STACEY PICKERING CALLED ME YESTERDAY AND ADVISED ME THAT HE HAS 7 cities IN THE STATE ON HIS RADAR AND BAY ST LOUIS IS THE WORST. WHEN I SAY HE CALLED,YES HIM

    1. And YOU, you idiot. You could get a job at the Sea Coast Echo. It’s CITY’S, not cities. Where, pray tell ,did you go to school?

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