The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire……..

Last night we had a public meeting double header here in the Bay so to make sure the local Alliance for Good Government had people at both we drew straws – Ron and I got the short ones and ended up at the Bay St Louis City Council meeting, which was a real snoozer since the finance department is on extended break. Council Prez Compretta ended up pushing the claims docket to the bottom of the agenda and I feel certain in saying sight unseen the stooges council approved it blind because Hizzoner said it was OK. Then the meeting adjourned so Hizzoner and stooges council could go the end of the Washington Street Boat Launch and dance naked in the pale moonlight.  Like I said, Ron and I drew the short straw.  I have the first 75 minutes or so on vid for posterity sake. Posting it for viewing could be construed as an act of wanton sadism so the editorial board here at Slabbed is hashing that part out as I write this.

Meantime over at the Bay Waveland School Board meeting the public was treated to quite a show. To set things up over the past several months the Alliance has been looking at the budgetary practices of the BWSD because the school district was amending its budget virtually monthly in a long standing practice and one that is absolutely unusual for a Mississippi K-12.  To go with that unusual practice is the fact there was absolutely no financial detail spread upon the Board’s minutes and after speaking with certain of the Board members the Alliance determined the School Board was not furnished any financial detail on any of these budgetary amendments.  Rumor holds that after each meeting in the six months ended December 31, 2014 after voting blind on these budgetary amendments Superintendent Ladner and the stooges School Board would head on down to the end of the Washington Street Boat Launch and dance naked in the pale moonlight but Slabbed has been unable to confirm this rumor.

In any event early this year certain members of the school board inquired as to what they  have been voting on in terms of those budget amendments.  Sources with first hand knowledge of the internal discussions have leaked to Slabbed New Media the documents and information they received, literally after months of inquiry and I have embedded this information below the jump.

So now back to last night’s meeting. Lana Noonan presented to the School Board a detailed presentation exhibiting how even the City of Bay St Louis shares the financial details of their budget amendments with their elected Board.  On the agenda last night were raises for certain central office administrators and according to Alliance for Good Government analysis of the 2014-2015 claims dockets, BWSD spent 250% more on its central office than Hancock County Schools, which happens to be about 250% larger than BWSD in terms of student population. The Board went into executive session.  I’ll let Lana Noonan describe the scene:

The school board stayed in executive session for over an hour. Superintendent Becky Ladner, Mike Bell, and Mike Benvenutti had a knock down drag out in front of everyone over administrative salaries. Ladner was practically screaming, and she wouldn’t budge.

During the fight, one of the administrators who was sitting in the audience, started crying. Then another gets up and grabs a box of Kleenex that just happened to be sitting on the speaker’s podium. At that point, the assistant Superintendent gets up and starts carrying on about how long they work, and how much they do…..

According to Ms Noonan, the raises passed 3-2. No word yet on whether the request for the budgetary detail was furnished to the Trustees but my guess there would be no. Stay tuned.

8 thoughts on “The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire……..”

  1. That’s right, Doug. Watching the high drama at the School Board meeting made me question whether I was watching a meeting or an episode of General Hospital. The Assistant Superintendent was in full throttle with his saccharine sweet hysterics until Mike Benvenutti sat him down.
    During the Executive Session, I looked around the room at the 9 flustered administrators present, and counted 6 who live out of district. Sure, they come here to work where the pot of gold is at their disposal no questions asked. Maybe they can’t run over the school boards in their own habitat like this.
    They were all cell phoning it at high speed, so the word was getting out that school trustees would actually question their pay, because Athletic Director Will Seymour entered the meeting room while the Board was still in Executive and said where everyone could hear, “Well, I make about $11 cents an hour. I have been up since five and am just now getting away from a game.” My only comment is “No comment.” You know, the school district charges parents an “out of district fee” for their children to attend in the Bay if they live elsewhere. Maybe they should charge these administrators and “out of district fee” to work here. With about 50% who don’t care enough about this community to even live here and contribute to the economy that pays them so well, they could pick up a little change. And don’t compare this to teachers who live elsewhere. They work for the state. Administrative pay comes from local taxes.
    Dr. Ladner talked about the equality she has practiced in compensating employees. I guess she forgot about the 2010-11 cut in pay the board voted where she took a 10% cut on her $110,000 salary and the secretaries took from 10% up to 17% on salaries that ranged from $29,000 a year to a whopping $38,000. She made sure the administrators were made whole the next year, but not those faithful ladies, some of whom had been there serving the taxpayers in excess of 20 years. Let’s all chip in for a dictionary for Becky. She doesn’t grasp the idea of equality, among other things.
    She also does not like being questioned primarily because she hasn’t been so far, but that is changing and fast.
    Maurice Singleton had better wake up too. How will he answer questions at the upcoming political forums in his race for District 4 Supervisor on spending public money with integrity and transparency when his performance as a school board trustee is all the record he has to run on?!!
    Becky Ladner also railed on about all of the “made up, incorrect information that people spew about the district.” She can’t be talking about the reading scores the Alliance shared in the Sun Herald because those were voluntarily passed to us by her Curriculum Director, Mrs. Seymour. We didn’t even ask for them. We asked for the name of the district’s reading coach, which we never did receive. And the other information we asked for last night came directly from her claim dockets she and her staff document each month. I think what Becky has the most discomfort with are FACTS.
    Stay tuned. We are just getting started.
    By the way, let’s all make plans to be out at the stadium when the new bleachers have to be dismantled, according to the report from the district’s new project manager to break up the concrete to fix the massive drainage problems. We want a firs hand view of all that leadership and ability to spend our money coming from 200 N. Second St. in the Bay.

    As research continues into the budget amendments of the Bay-Waveland School District, it seems that it is a pattern of behavior for the Board and Administration to amend the budget with no numbers available in their minutes for the public, which begs the question—at the end of each fiscal year have we gone over budget and if so how much and for what purpose?
    For the Fiscal Year 2012-2013 the budgets ( local and federal) were amended 11 times ( according to Board minutes) with actual figures provided only once that being May of 2013 on a federal budget. No figures are ever given on amendments on local funds thus far.
    The administrative salary list for the 2013-14 school year are as follows ( minutes approved on July 15, 2013):
    Rebecca Ladner—$125,000——-work days ???
    Rusty Dempsey—-$ 94,806——235—–lives out of district
    Cherie Labat——-$ 81,818,——235—-lives out of district
    Amy Coyne———$74,620——-222
    Toy Watts———–$74,620——222—-lives out of district
    Myron Labat——$75,767—–235—retired
    Shirley Prendergast—-$73,620—222
    Nick Overby——–$73,620—–222
    Vikki Landry——-$72,659—–235—-lives out of district
    Donna Torres—-$75,767——235
    Brad Barlow——$81,539—–235—-lives out of district
    Matthew Hode– $66,000—-235
    Lynel Necaise—-$88,755—–235
    Penny Rodrique—$61,903—–192
    Andy Parker——–$92,642—–235retired
    Will Seymour——$74,324—–235—-lives out of district
    So, very near half of our administrators choose to not live in the school district that pays them so generously.

    The scale was not published in the 2014-15 minutes, so with the raises they got at Tues. meeting, in addition to last year ( if they were raised) we do not have current figures, but will get them, and publish them as soon as we do.
    Now, do you all see why Benvenutti was pushing so hard Tues. evening? And, for those of you who are so upset about the City Clerk in Waveland receiving a $7,000 raise (don’t know how long it has been since she had one) I can guarantee you she is required to be on the job more than 235 days a year.
    Additionally, it was finally revealed Tues. evening that this “formula” that is being used is not anything mandated by the state, but I had contacted the state about that sometime ago.
    Stay tuned

    1. Concerning the city clerk in Waveland, doing the math and only having two weeks vacation but she probably has three and has more the 7 holidays she works the most 243 days, not much of a difference from 235
      52 weeks × 5 days a week = 260
      10 days vacation (probably 15) -10 -10
      7 holidays (probably more) -7
      Total. 243

  3. The downward spiral continues, unabated.

    Time for the council to own the financial mess the city is in and time for the city school system to wake up and smell the roses. We are not living in an area that is on an economic upswing. We have limited resources. End of discussion. We need to budget and live w/in our means.

    If we had the financial resources to weather all of these “wants” our politicians consider “needs” we might be able to stomach some of their shenannagins, but the fact is we don’t.

    Thank you Doug and Lana for keeping the public truly informed. If we relied strictly on the “local” news we would be totally in the dark.

    On the state political front: IMHO Rep. Baria has made his own bed. He made a sweetheart deal w/JP thinking he would have a better opp in the house to move up into a leadership position quickly. The Senate is firmly controlled by the Rebublicans and that caused him immense frustration. He is more focused on his own political agenda than he is on what is doing best for the community. He has to learn to work with the Republicans if he expects their support for our area. Politics is a nasty can be a nasty world to work in. You don’t bite the hand that feeds the community you were elected to serve. It is absolutely political payback that we did not receive more $ in tideland funds. Also suspect the fact Hizzoner has been playing fast and loose with our harbor funds could be another big reason the big boys in Jax did not want to provide additional funds that he could waste and use to embarrass them with. Again, just my opinion.

  4. Coastal Gal,
    Thanks for your kind words. We do put in a lot of time trying to make the public aware. If we could just make them care! That is the biggest thing politicians have going for them–an apathetic public.
    However, a downright dumb set of public officials is what is doing the citizens of Bay St. Louis in. I did not realize until Tuesday evening when I was chatting with Ward IV Councilman Compretta and Ward III Councilman Reed how really bad off the Bay is.
    It was after their meeting and the City Clerk did not show up for the financial report. I asked the two Councilmen “What are you guys going to do?” You told her to be here tonight because you cannot account for the $13 a month debt service surcharge you put on everyone’s utility bill last Oct. in order to be able to pay the bond at the Hancock Bank on July 1 of this year. The bank had given you a year reprieve. You hired Butler Snow law firm to handle it, etc. Compretta argued me down that they didn’t owe any money to a bank. He said that $13 was for a project at the Hancock Utility Authority. The Council secretary, the reporter from the Echo, and I were all shocked at this man in his 3rd term not even knowing what was going on or what he had voted to do.
    Reed said that he thought he remembered “someone” coming and talking to them about having a year to pay ” something.” People, this is pathetic, totally pathetic. But it gets worse.
    Compretta finally went back in the Council Chamber and asked Lonnie Falgout if he was right and Falgout set him straight that the bond (around $400,00) is due July 1. Compretta came out and told us he was sorry but he just did not remember that. I guarantee you the Bank is gonna remember it. I told him how awful I thought it was that the citizens of Bay St. Louis had their utility bills absconded with two years in a row, and no one knows what happened to the money. His answer to me was —S__t happens, and he walked off!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That was the worst I have ever seen in a public official. The total disrespect for his constituents, the people who elected him and pay his salary to serve them–getting ripped off like this and this is his reaction to it. Who cares if you paid $13 more on your utility bill every month and we can’t find the money—S__t happens???!!!!
    I thought about this all the way home, and finally decided that would be a good campaign slogan for his opponent in two years S—T HAPPENS, YES THANKS TO LES AND THE FOUR THAT VOTE WITH HIM ALL THE TIME!!! Seal, McDonald, Reed and Compretta!!! If they can’t find that money yall gave them all year added to your utility bills, on July 2, S___t is definitely gonna happen, it’s gonna hit the fan!! These banks deal with people every day trying to rip them off, and the city of Bay St. Louis is not their first rodeo.

  5. That is funny, Bay Rat. I am not qualified to be a Mayor, but those of us in the Alliance for Good Government are certainly well qualified to keep informing the citizens of Hancock County how their government entities are being run, and we will continue to do that.
    Rumor has it today that the Council may have to take the proceeds from the sale of the old City Hall on Court St. to pay for the bond at the Hancock Bank. Now, wouldn’t that be a shame? The city officials gave that building away to the Chamber of Commerce for 5 years rent free at a time when the city needed every penny of revenue it could get its hands on recovering from Katrina.
    They finally come to their senses, sell it, and now the citizens will derive nothing from it anyway–no services, maintenance, nothing—it will go to cover “whatever” happened to that $13 a month debt service surcharge you have been paying for almost a year on your utility bills to pay off a bond at the Hancock Bank, because the administration that keeps the books now can’ find it.
    I wonder if the Council has ever taken into consideration that no one has ever approached them and requested a resolution to divert these funds to another use? They just disappear? Come on guys and girlie there on the Council. You have to do better than this by your constituents.
    You had better. Maybe looking up the word “complicit” in the dictionary would help light a fire under them.

  6. Maybe Wrong,
    The Alliance for Good Government really doesn’t like to use terms like “maybe” and “probably” when we publish numbers, but we’ll go with what you say here regarding the Waveland City Clerk, using that position as a comparison to the administrative salaries in the Bay-Waveland School District. We will, however use numbers officially published by the School District regarding the administrator’s pay and by the two cities regarding their clerks’ compensation.
    Both of these public employees are highly credentialed, the Clerk being a CPA and the administrator now a PhD.
    Your numbers are a little off because the weeping administrator at the School Board meeting Tues. night has a contract for 222 days ( not 235) according to school district documents, and you claim the city clerk works 243 days. That is 21 days or 3 weeks difference to be exact. So, the clerk is on the job almost a month more than the administrator. But the fact that is so troubling is the disparity in pay.
    The city clerk had been working for $60,000 a year for, I believe 7 years, and in the last two years the administrator’s pay has increased from $74, 620 to $96,000 and some change. That is an increase of
    $21, 380 in 2 years, or $10,690 a year while the clerk puts in 3 more weeks on the job for $7,000 in 7 years. The Bay St. Louis City Clerk’s salary is $61,946.80, for the past two years.
    Is it no wonder School Board members Mike Benvenutti and Mike Bell, two self employed businessmen, who know what it means to manage a personnel budget out of their own pockets, wanted to freeze administrative pay? A raise of $10, 690 for each of the last two years, and now another $1500 bump?!
    This person now makes more as a school administrator in a community of around 16,000 than the following public officials who have a whole state to run:
    Lt. Governor—$60,000
    Secretary of State—$90,000
    State Auditor–$90,000
    The Superintendent makes more than the Gov. He makes $122,160 to her $125,000.
    And there is no end in sight.
    Neither city that supports this school district through taxes on the citizens pays their personnel like this school district does. Let me know how many citizens in Bay St. Louis and Waveland who have received a $10,000 pay raise each year for the last two years, and don’t use “probably” and “maybe.” The local media has published the fact that 78% of them are on some kind of public assistance, and the other 22% are having to foot the bill for this out of control spending.
    Neither does the County school district right up the road pay administrators like this, but their Board and Superintendent are all elected and actually have to answer to the voters for how they manage money, which accounts for half of our administrators living in that district, but wanting to work here, where the money flows uncontested. In a school district of some 16,000 residents, our Superintendent has to keep 3 people happy to keep her job, a simple majority of the board, one of whom works for the Board President.
    That box of Kleenex that was passed around Tuesday night should have been given to the taxpayers in the audience. We’re the ones who have the most to cry about.

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