Financial Statement Drilldown: Is Bay St Louis budgeting revenues it will never collect?

And the question in the post title begs the next key question in “Is City is expending the revenues it will never receive?”. The answer to both questions appears to be yes if the City budget is more than a simple piece of paper with numbers on it. First up is an analysis of Revenue account 201, where Ad Valorm Tax Revenue from Real Property is coded. Here is the salient portion of the 2013-2014 City Budget:

2013-2014 BSL Budget Worksheet

We can see that in 2012-2013 the City Budget called for total revenues for this line item, the largest of all the Ad Valorem Tax Revenue sources, of $1,680,000 yet as of September 12, 2013 only $1,284,724 had been collected. That amount ($1,284,724) should be very close to the final number aka actual for the 2012-2013 Fiscal Year as very little Real Property Ad Valorem tax is paid at that time of the year since the property taxes were due in January. Therefore using that number for 2012-2013 means that line item was short $395,276 in Real Property Tax Ad Valorem Revenues, which represents in excess of 10% of total budgeted revenues. Following is a chart which shows the 3 year trend for this revenue line item:

Source, 2013-2014 Budget Report Obtained from City's Website. 2013 data incomplete but should not differ materially from actual
Source, 2013-2014 Budget Report Obtained from City’s Website. 2013 data incomplete but should not differ materially from actual

RFP was all over this fact in comments linking a 2011 WLOX story on the problem:

Bay St. Louis mayor sets record straight about finances ~ Michelle Lady Continue reading “Financial Statement Drilldown: Is Bay St Louis budgeting revenues it will never collect?”

In Mississippi tax breaks and the gang at Port and Harbor in the news

First we have a reader question:

In the Sun Herald this morning on page 3A under “D’Iberville approves tax break to attract business” Joe Cloyd’s CDBG Long Term Work Force housing Riverside senior apartments is asking the city to abate ad valorem taxes for three years. This is not a business that produces or pays any sales taxes and was built with taxpayer money in most part already. Where does it end?

Such things usually end in bankruptcy because the piggies that are hooked into the taxpayer trough rarely stop feeding on their own.

Next up since the Bay St Louis social media policy was topical at last night’s City Council meeting I have this from Eric Goldman.org:

Police Officer’s Facebook Post Criticizing Her Boss Isn’t Protected Speech–Graziosi v. Greenville ~ Venkat Balasubramani

The bottom line is the law in this area is not settled by any stretch of the imagination for public sector employees. Continue reading “In Mississippi tax breaks and the gang at Port and Harbor in the news”

Pravda or Paper? Some interesting things are happening in the online Bay St Louis scene

Here is the scenario that has my spidey senses tingling:

1. We have a city with major financial problems that is reduced to using the cash flow from the water and sewer collections billed on behalf of other entities to finance its operations.

2. The same City took a $500,000 loan to pay its past due bills and according to the local Good Government group still has its credit privileges under open account at a major local vendor suspended for nonpayment.  There is talk of the City Council taking the checkbook away from the Mayor, who until recently was on the record saying the City’s finances were in good shape. The known tally is $900,000 in the hole and counting.

3. A new anonymous website pops up touting a seemingly easy solution to the financial problem touting deannexation of the 2 wards whose councilman are the Mayor’s biggest fiscal critics.  These wards that have paid in property and sales taxes to the City but received little in the way of City services since they were annexed.

4.  Within 4 days of the anonymous site going online the newspaper of record for the area writes an article promoting it going so far as to link a blind, anonymous email address in the promotion.

A timeline is instructive: Continue reading “Pravda or Paper? Some interesting things are happening in the online Bay St Louis scene”

Guest Post | Hancock County Alliance for Good Government: 2014—-A Year of “Elections” and “Decisions”

First of all, a Happy New Year to all–hope your holidays were all you wanted them to be and the New Year will be successful for you. This year will be a year of “elections” or “decisions” if you will. Waveland will hold their municipal elections in the Fall, and if that seems far off, just wait. It will be here before you know it. Certainly the announcements and campaigning will be here soon. The Alliance will sponsor a political forum as we do for all the elections, so stay tuned if you are a candidate or simply a voter.

Events that have unfolded since the Bay St. Louis officials took the oath of office last July indicate that the Bay City Council needs to “elect” to see that their city’s bills get paid whether or not the Mayor does. They may have to “take the checkbook” away from him if need be. This is, of course, a figure of speech, but they do have the legal responsibility for seeing that the bills are paid, which could be to refuse to approve any more dockets until he pays the Solid Waste and Hancock County Utility Authorities what the city owes them. After all, these folks have dockets to pay as well. And using the excuse that they fell behind because they didn’t charge enough for utilities is ridiculous. That’s not the fault of the Utility Authorities. By the way, what happened to the $500,000 line of credit that was supposed to cover these utility bills? And, most importantly, what is the administration doing with the money the users are sending to city hall to pay these bills? The city does’t own any garbage trucks or employ any garbage workers. So what makes them think they can keep funds for a service they not only do not, but cannot perform? Amazing. Who knows what the list of delinquent bills looks like? Now we are hearing that Lowe’s has cut the city off for non payment; and heard it from RELIABLE sources.

Let’s hope the ad valorem taxes in the Bay are enough to take care of these problems what with the Harbor coming on board between March and May–built by the Feds, but to be maintained by the locals. The continuing long list of foreclosures in the paper each week is very disturbing. Continue reading “Guest Post | Hancock County Alliance for Good Government: 2014—-A Year of “Elections” and “Decisions””

The word he was looking for is “purchase requisition”

And yes Virginia, a Purchase order is a binding legal contract. In a well designed procedurement system, something the City of Bay St Louis evidently lacks, it all starts with a “purchase requisition” (requisition for short) and once the applicable legal requirements are checked and met (including checking against the budget), a purchase order is then issued and an encumbrance created.

I mention this because it is clear none of this occurred with the purchase of the new Fire Truck for the Bay St Louis Fire Department, the State Auditor’s office was called in and a controversy created:

Bay Council okays fire truck purchase ~  Cassandra Favre

In order to follow the rules one must first know what the rules are and I’m wondering if there is anyone at City Hall with any sort of meaningful expertise on the proper financial operation of a Mississippi Municipality.  I still cringe in horror knowing the City runs Quickbooks as its ERP package. Such is penny wise and pound foolish on so many levels.

Luckily there is no reason to take blind stabs in the dark when it comes to the proper fiscal operation of a Municipal Government since the good folks at Mississippi State University have been kind enough to post their 2013 Municipal Handbook on the internet free of charge for everyone, and by everyone I mean especially those located at City Hall in Bay St Louis. Chapter IX (that’s 9 for those of you that do not do roman numerals) has a great section on Municipal fiscal operations. It is not an exhaustive treatise on the subject but it pairs nicely with the 2010 Municipal Audit and Accounting Guide, which is also available free of charge from the State Auditor’s Website which goes into a bit more depth. Continue reading “The word he was looking for is “purchase requisition””

Guest Post | Hancock County Alliance for Good Government: Openness in Governing

In the state of Mississippi the efforts of some public officials to exclude the taxpayers from their deliberations on the expenditure of public funds has reached epidemic proportions. The sad thing is that the weak laws in this state don’t offer much relief for the taxpaying public.

In one day we get to observe a state official, State Auditor Stacey Pickering, and his staff admit under oath their efforts to hide information not only from the public, but from a Judge.

Then the Bay St. Louis Mayor and City Council call a “special” meeting to finalize the purchase of a new fire truck that will come in at slightly over $500,000. The notice of the meeting went out the morning of the meeting. This doesn’t give John Q. Public much chance to make arrangements to listen or participate in the discussion of the purchase of this equipment with our hard earned tax dollars.

No one is questioning the necessity of the equipment, but the urgency of the meeting is what is suspect. Continue reading “Guest Post | Hancock County Alliance for Good Government: Openness in Governing”

Saturday Open: Retail creeps and the Aggies head to Jackson

I’m really not that old fashioned but you know something is wrong when Halloween items hit store shelves in late August and we skip over Thanksgiving to extend the “Christmas Season”.

Black Friday opens with a whimper along Coast ~ Patrick Ochs

The MSHSAA’s State Class 4A football championship game is set as the Forrest County AHS Aggies will represent the Southern part of Mississippi against Lafayette County next Saturday.

Aggies punch their ticket to Jackson ~ Stan Caldwell

A bit more on this unique school.

Miss Glenda is a sweetheart.

FInally some hometown news:

Bay councilman hot over new fire truck ~ Cassandra Favre

I always thought the purpose of the State Contract was to make purchasing easier. Hmmm.

Meantime back in the Bay…….

$258,000 and counting…..

Bay vows to pay overdue utility bill ~ Dwayne Bremer

Meantime over on the Bay Tech Building beat we have a tentative trial date (click the picture to nab the full pdf file containing the order):

Magnolia Group v O'Dwyer et al Doc 34

Wednesday links

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Handelsman to join Advocate ~ The NOLA Advocate

Walt Handelsman has been a Slabbed tweep for a while now and I’m happy to hear he is back coming home from the north east.

The Jefferson Parish Hospital debacle takes another twisted turn as the BS is freely flowing:

Don’t split hospitals without public vote, West Jeff board says ~ Jeff Adelson

Perhaps the power brokers should not have stripped the public of that right to begin with but what’s done is done. Yesterday a reader noted even the Jefferson Parish coroner chipped in his two cents on this man made disaster:

Jefferson Parish should start over on hospital lease search ~ Gerry Cvitanovich

Next up is Maybury on the Mississippi Coast:

Bay violated open meetings law ~ Seacoast Echo

The sentence for this violation is 40 lashes with a wet noodle.

Next up is developer Jim MacPhaille and the old Second Street Elementary School Continue reading “Wednesday links”

Guest Post: Hancock County Alliance for Good Government October 2013 Newsletter

HANCOCK COUNTY ALLIANCE FOR GOOD GOVERNMENT OCTOBER 2013 NEWSLETTER

For those of you familiar with the Broadway musical, “Cabaret” the local, state, and national news is beginning to sound like a refrain from one of the shows numbers: “Money.” This past month has been a numbers game for those of us studying all of the figures.

For example there are $259,955 in delinquent utility bills in Bay St. Louis. Seven of these delinquent accounts were city employees until we published the list, then one paid. Shedding light can sometimes have positive results.

There is $187,000 delinquent utility bills in Waveland which includes a former Police Chief and Mayor. We hope these accounts can be cleaned up so the rest of us don’t have to continue to carry the burden because many on these lists are more than able to pay. And, it is only going to get worse now that both cities have increased rates. For those who just will not pay, there is a remedy, if our public officials will use it, and that’s cutting them off. They sure wouldn’t get by with this with Miss. Power, Coast Electric, or Cable TV. To review the complete lists of delinquent accounts go to Slabbed.org.

Thousands of parcels of property in Hancock County have been abandoned by the owners which results in a loss of ad valorem taxes when they are returned to the state. The latest hit to the ad valorem tax base in the county is the new formula for assessing taxes on the Section 42 and Section 8 housing complexes. According to Jimmie Ladner, this loss could fall in the laps of the rest of us to make up the difference. We may not like the news, but at least Jimmie will always tell it like it is. Continue reading “Guest Post: Hancock County Alliance for Good Government October 2013 Newsletter”