Other Voices | Lana Noonan: Hancock County Budget Season Update

It’s difficult to tell where to begin when it comes to Budget Season with our local entities. The number crunching has begun, and the departmental wish lists are presenting major financial challenges for our local officials.

Let’s begin with the City of Bay St. Louis. The seven guys on the City Council are working hard to get their budget together for the upcoming fiscal year of 2017-2018.

One little kink in the wheel that must be resolved sooner rather than later is WHERE IS THE 2016 AUDIT??????? Kind of hard to formulate a budget until you examine your auditor’s candid verdict on your books of account for the past fiscal year. The Auditor, Bobby Culumber, is MIA. They had better find him pretty soon. I think the audit was due on June 30, 2017 which would have given the City Council ample time before budget workshops to identify and confront their monetary issues and prioritize them.

Moving right along, the issues that have been discussed at the last two budget workshops are:

1. Going out for bids on the city’s insurance which is due to renew in Feb. or March of 2018.

2. On this same subject, since Council does not approve benefits for part time employees, they should also remove themselves from this benefit. Their position does not require them to spend every day at City Hall. ALL OF OUR PUBLIC ENTITIES SHOULD ELIMINATE THIS FROM THEIR BUDGETS. THINK OF THE MONEY WE WOULD SAVE.

3. Supporting the continued presence of a Tourism Office in Hancock County and lending financial support. Councilman DeSalvo also wants to solicit support from the Downtown Merchants since they benefit the most from Tourism events such as Cruisin’ the Coast. Continue reading “Other Voices | Lana Noonan: Hancock County Budget Season Update”

Less than one year ago, East Hancock Library was closed due to a lack of funds

Today, the Hancock County Library system is so flush with money it can afford to buy a Gold Sponsorship ($1,200) to the Chamber of Comemerce Gala this evening at the Hollywood Casino in Bay St Louis but the Library system is not the only taxpayer funded entity that will party on the taxpayer dime tonight. This does not count the Hancock County Library Foundation, which also bought a $1,200 table for the event:

Platinum sponsors of the event are: Hancock Bank, Aerojet Rocketdyne, American Medical Response, Coast Electric Power Association, Hancock County Tourism Development Bureau, Hollywood Casino – Gulf Coast, Bob & Barbara Huet, Mississippi Power Company, and Silver Slipper Casino & Hotel.

Gold sponsors of the event are: Chemours DeLisle Plant, James J. Chiniche, P. A., Inc. Engineering & Surveying, Dunbar Village, Hancock County Library System, Keesler Federal Credit Union, Lazy Magnolia Brewery, John McDonald Realty, Southern Mississippi Planning & Development District, The Library Foundation of Hancock County, and The Peoples Bank.

First up kudos to all the local private businesses that have stepped up to support their public interest group. That said, when the Library and Tourism folks show up poor mouthing their budgets while asking the Bay City Council for taxpayer handouts, maybe they should be asked about how they spend the tax money they already receive. That said this is not the only story in yesterday’s Echo that was worth reading:

Hancock supervisors seek to increase millage ~ Dwayne Bremer

Guest Post: Bay-Waveland School Board Budget Hearing – A New Ballgame

The Bay St. Louis-Waveland Budget hearing Monday night was a whole new ball game as compared to the last 15 years. Not only was the Administration called on to justify their spending, but the public was actually invited to speak and ask questions.

The School District Budget report distributed to the audience last night claims a per pupil spending $11,083.00 to educate each child in the Bay St. Louis-Waveland School District. While the Superintendent stated they are underfunded $700,000 by the State, it appears we are doing just fine without State Funding because $11,083.00 is more than it costs to educated a student in our local private schools.

But what are we spending this $11,083 on?

Locally Under Major District Maintenance Expenditures the Instructional Budget ($297, 931) came in way behind Insurance ($794,307), Utilities ($900,670), and Transportation ($834, 500). Bringing up the rear were School Nurses ($180,000) and Maintenance ($127,000). Remember folks, the more we continue to play with bricks and mortar the more our Maintenance Budget will be and the Administration seems to be addicted to Architects and Engineers.

Under Administrative Costs, of the 14 Coast School Districts listed, we are the second highest percentage wise. That has pretty much stayed the same since a survey the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government did on Coast School District Administrative Spending in 2010.

The Superintendent and Business Manager defended their Administrative spending with regards to the low enrollment 0f 1,924 by saying that no matter how small a district is, the State still requires the same number of administrators. Well, there is your best argument for one School District in Hancock County. Why should the taxpayers in a county of only 45,000 residents, a lot of whom are below poverty level, have to continue to support duplicate administrative costs for a little over 6,000 students combined? Continue reading “Guest Post: Bay-Waveland School Board Budget Hearing – A New Ballgame”

What we have here is an old fashioned media brawl, let’s jump in

I spent some time catching up on all things Mississippi across the media spectrum yesterday and what I found was rich. Let’s start with some hypocrisy:

Non-profit journalism ~ Wyatt Emmerich

Emmerich’s piece reveals to his readers the new not for profit kid on the Mississippi Media scene, Mississippi Today as he pans the nonprofit news model:

For decades, traditional media outlets have struggled to resist editorial pressure from advertisers. This pressure will be far more intense from direct contributors.

It is at that point that I started giggling because Emmerich revealed the basic weakness in both journalistic business models. That said there is no denying Patsy Brumfield and others did a fantastic job covering state government in detail over the past legislative session, a very worthy journalistic beat which lends itself well to what is called “enterprise reporting”.

It is that bit of sunshine shown by Mississippi Today that I think has given the far right wing media heartburn because there is a new kid on the block that does not necessarily drink the Mississippi GOP Koolaid and when this past legislative session was stripped naked with the specter of GOP legislators being told how to vote via text message it was not a pretty sight. Add to that the fact Mississippi Today is a new competitor to the for-profit outlets so there is going to be a natural tension between some of the market participants. It is rich. Continue reading “What we have here is an old fashioned media brawl, let’s jump in”

Meltdown on Main: Bay City Council unable to pass FY 2016 Budget due to lack of information

And from that headline one could easily conclude last night’s meeting was a complete waste of time since the City Council had to schedule a special meeting for later this week after Mayor Fillingame was unable to answer their financial questions regarding the upcoming budget but it wasn’t for a variety of reasons.

Mayor Fillingame did announce that long time City Comptroller turned City Clerk Katherine Smith is retiring on September 30 along with his selection of Casey Favre to fill the remainder of Mike Benvenutti’s term on the Bay Waveland School Board.

I could end this post here and delete the first three words of the headline and call it a public interest journalism day easily completed so I can devote time to the major investigative project Slabbed is doing on the construction of the Jackson County jail where the stakes are so much higher as personal liberty is at issue rather than the simple squandering of tax money by a small town mayor that is in over his head.  I’m not though because last night’s meeting was not the one the public was supposed to see, at least according to the agenda of the meeting emailed to the public by Council Clerk Tilley on Friday.  This public record shows up on a variety of locally focused websites besides Slabbed so I might as well join the gang and display an agenda here on Slabbed so everyone can get a flavor of what I’m talking about:

Source: Bay St Louis City Council
Source: Bay St Louis City Council

I observed a long time ago on these pages that the City Council could do a better job running it’s meetings by curtailing the very generous public comment periods where a Citizen could get up to the mike, state their name for the record and opine (within reason) to their hearts content on issues facing the City. It made the meetings longer, unnecessarily so in some cases. I also noticed a few months back that a new policy was adopted with respect to the first public comment period that it be limited to agenda topics and the above agenda reflects that fact.

A second public comment portion at the end of the meeting was still maintained where the topic of public comments are not limited. Those people that give enough advance notice can be placed at the top of the agenda like Mssrs. Caplinger and Wells were last for yesterday’s meeting.  The policy is still very reasonable and friendlier to the public than many local governments in Mississippi which generally have one comment period that requires advance registration with the board clerk.  I like the fact the Bay St Louis City Council has such a generous policy, that was adopted when Ward 4 Councilman Compretta assumed the role of Council President a few months ago. Continue reading “Meltdown on Main: Bay City Council unable to pass FY 2016 Budget due to lack of information”

Trolley lolley lolley, fa la la la……

Bay St. Louis council calls for federal probe into $186,000 in police-forfeiture money ~ Wes Muller

Playing games with pooled bank accounts is nothing new or particularily innovative on the book cooking front.  What gets me is the fact that the same pot of money is apparently spent over and over and over again.  I’ll term it Hocus Pocus accounting and it is fairly easy to see through.

Speaking of Hocus Pocus accounting in the Bay we have a Hocus Pocus budgeting as well as.  You see folks in Mississippi by law Municipalities must prepare their budget on the cash basis with one exception. What this means is revenue per the budget is recognized when actually received rather than when earned. This means with the exception of previous fiscal year claims paid within 30 days after September 30 that expenses are recognized when paid rather than when incurred. Since we’re talking governmental accounting this also means that capital expenses are shown as an expense when paid and both loan principal and interest are expensed when paid.  Adjusting for claims paid 30 days after year end this also means the following equation is true. [Section 21-35-23, Miss. Code Ann. (1972)]

Beginning Cash in fund + budgeted revenues – budgeted expenses = Ending Cash in fund

Now I would encourage everyone to visit the City’s website and download the original and amended budgets for 2014-2015. Look hard for the equation I highlighted above but you can also take it from me that you won’t find it because the City did not use the correct format for its budget. Correct format??? What the heck is Handshoe talking about? I’m talking about the Mississippi Audit and Accounting Guide for Municipalities promulgated by the Mississippi State Auditor’s office, which by law has the authority to dictate the form of the budget. [Sections 21-35-7 and 21-35-29, Miss. Code Ann. (1972)] The following is what I am talking about being missing from the Bay Budget: Continue reading “Trolley lolley lolley, fa la la la……”