Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Priester: Make the Godfather move

Jackson Ward 2 City Councilman Melvin Priester, Jr. laid out possible options for Jackson after the Moody's downgrade on his Facebook page:

Here's the thing everyone needs to read to understand the severity of what the city is going through.

On the one hand, it's terrible news.

On the other hand, it's a roadmap.

This basically says Jackson must curtail spending, raise more revenue, and build up its savings.

The hope last year was to cut spending and hold the line.

That didn't work and so Moody's is flat out telling us to cut spending and raise taxes and put some money into a savings account in a systemic fashion.

Yesterday, we listened to a presentation from the parks department and from human and cultural services. The proposal in those departments included closing a senior center and an early childhood development center (moving the users to different facilities), ending the city's participation in the americorps program, letting go of several employees in these departments, and ending the summer youth program and drastically altering the summer youth jobs program (only allowing kids who are sponsored by private businesses to participate).

The dilemma here is that even with a tax increase, unless there is budget cutting beyond the current proposal, we don't get back to a healthy budget reserve this year. I'd say healthy really is at 7.5% or above.

Assuming we have 1 million left unspent at the end of the year, The options as I see them are:

1.) Mayors proposal: 3 mil tax increase, 4% in reserve, 7.5 million in budget cuts as described over last few days. See 1a.

1a.) Mayor's Proposal Edited by council: 3 mil tax increase, 4% reserve, 7.5 million in budget cuts but alternative allocation of cuts. This is a horse trading approach, ratings agencies are probably still pissed but placated a little because of tax increase. Citizens are pissed because they get their taxes raised. People in city hall will issue competing press releases about how we carved out money to save X or y while cutting the budget without cutting services too bad, we will apologize about the tax increase and say we were able to have only a "small tax increase." All the problems we currently have continue and we will have a dramatic crisis budget season next year too.

2.) 4 mil tax increase, 5% in reserve, 7.5 million in Budget cuts as described over the last few days or edited by council. This would take some will power and would be really hard to make citizens understand that we cut services and raised their taxes beyond what the mayor proposed (yup, that's a political grenade we create). This is sort of a worst of all worlds option (but ironically this may be the wisest move because we know that we wind up blowing our reserve target so we need to aim at 5% to get to 4%). This option creates another political grenade as it really isn't a long term fix and we'll still be in budget crisis next year. People are pissed we raised taxes, someone on Jackson jambalaya posts a chart comparing taxes in Jackson to taxes in surrounding suburbs. People are pissed because services are cut. Ratings agencies are pleased because of tax increase and we probably lessen next year's crisis because we get some breathing room from the tax increase and we did some hard cuts this year. This plan rather than the mayor's plan or 1a is the one that has solid odds of actually ending the furlough in FY18.

3.) 4 mil tax increase, 4% in reserve, 6.3 million in budget cuts. Try to lessen the blow on some of the social service cuts by increasing taxes above originally proposed and not cutting as deep. This is a worst of both worlds in the opposition direction in that if we aim for 4% reserve, history tells us we'll hit 2 or 3%. Problems continue next year. It's expedient though, feels good, it's a compromise like 1a. If I had to guess, this is or 1a will be what ultimately happens. We spread the pain out to next year. FWIW, the mayors plan, 1a, 2, and this one are all kick-the-can plans.

4.) 4 mil tax increase, 7.5% in reserve, 10.5 million in cuts. This has BIG advantages in the eyes of the ratings agencies. The truth with this plan: The city could eliminate all social services and niceties and still not pull this off without laying off some policemen though. I'm talking about actually putting uniformed policemen in the unemployment line, none of this "freeze vacant positions" stuff we're talking about now. Also, the zoo gets zero dollars and loses its accreditation, animals go elsewhere. Golf courses close, planetarium and art center close too, some firemen and some public works employees are sent home, not furloughed, fired. This would take a lot of managerial oversight and pain as it really is a reorganization. Have I mentioned people get fired? (OK, where have we read these suggestions? Hmm.... maybe on this site a year ago?)

This is probably the most adult approach. The upside to this and I'm being really honest here, you pull off the bandaid quickly. It's a godfather move. You handle all of your business in one day. The ratings agencies go through the moon with happiness and it's a hard reboot for the next administration and city council because none of us get re-elected after raising your taxes to the max available and laying off police officers in the same year. Next year's budget cycle would have some more cutting likely too, but the heavy lifting is done and we stop having the ridiculous drama every August.

5.) 1-4 mil tax increase, O% in reserve, moderate cuts. That would be stupid and suicidal although it would make for some awesome p.r. about saving youth programs. Any gain from raising taxes in the eyes of the ratings agency is offset by having no reserve. This is a stupid option.

6.) 0 mil tax increase, 7.5% reserve, 15 million in cuts. This is the real godfather move. I don't see how this one happens and I don't think it's practical. No way we can pull off all the cuts involved here. We end human and cultural services and parks, have layoffs to police. Piss off the citizens by cutting basic services like mowing grass in parks consistently. Maybe some are pleased because "no new taxes" but ratings agency still dings us because we didn't raise taxes to increase revenue. Ratings agency would be pleased to see however that we increase reserve to a semi-respectable amount. The elimination of services creates more headaches and costs later as unattended parks become blights and police cuts and public works cuts lead to obvious problems.

7.) 1-3 mil tax increase, 4-7.5%reserve, 7.5 to 15 million cuts. This is another horse trading, hybrid, worst of all worlds approach. There is some perfect ultitarian mix in here but not sure if we can find it in the allotted time remaining.

So there is where we are as bluntly as I could present it. Of the 7 options (8 really), which do you prefer? And no, you can't suggest magic options like sue Siemens or put up a toll road or fix the parking meters downtown.

Kingfish note: Here is what The Kingfish posted a year ago:

 That was the news, now it is time for the opinion.  The position of this website regarding this budget is a pox on all of their houses.  There was no leadership at all on the budget.  No one wanted to lay anyone off. No one wanted to close any departments.  The city has not one but two public golf courses (and Lefluer's Bluff makes it three.).  Councilman Ashby Foote proposed closing a golf course.  No dice.  The city is collecting $20-30 million of what it should receive for water bills yet there was no talk of re-instituting the activation fees when water services are terminated for non-payment.  They all yapped about how Jackson's budget was based on a population of 200,000 and but when push came to shove, none of them wanted to reduce or close anything.

Councilman Tyrone Hendrix flat out said he was hoping for more business so Jackson could have a larger budget next year.  It never occurs to liberals such as him that maybe Jackson's high taxes and other policies drive businesses to the burbs.  It also does not occur to him to find ways to actually restructure city government as the furloughs are just a band-aid.  They cover up the wound for a while but the wound is still festering and bleeding.  The fact is there was no leadership on the budget. Speeches were made.  Hot air was exhaled and tables were pounded but in the end, no one wants anyone to suffer.  Trying to avoid pain means the pain will just be that much worse when finally faced.This is a city council that hikes its own budget, raises the minimum wage for employees, raises the overall budget by 40%, abolishes the reconnect fees for water and sewer services, and keeps going down the path of financial suicide while it avoids accepting any responsibility.

The City Council just plays around with the budget and then hopes it will disappear until next year when the same circus will start anew.  The only way this crowd will do anything constructive is if Jackson goes full Detroit and blows up.


Anonymous said...

I'm down for #4...
and yes, I am a Jackson resident

Anonymous said...

They need to dump every city employee who is worthless. Start with Louis Armstrong if that felon is still there.

Anonymous said...

Guess I will say No. 4 is best and yes, I am a Jacksonian.

Anonymous said...

Would No. 4 cause an increase in our home insurance rates by cutting fire fighters?

Anonymous said...

Tax increase and I am out.

Roger Murdock said...

I would be for number 4 if I really believed the cuts would come after the tax hikes. They won't. And if, for some reason they did, I cynically disagree with the idea that the entire council and mayor would be sent home. Barret-Simon has been on the council since 1985, and a Stokes has been since 89. To say that Barret-Simon is unresponsive to and ineffective for the vast majority of her constituency is an understatement. And Stokes? He could burn half his ward on live TV and probably keep his seat. Were he to lose it, I'm sure someone else with his last name would 'inherit' it. Tax hikes will be hidden for the most part. Renters will only know their rent went up and buyers will see a change in their escrow. Most residents never come in contact with most city services and won't notice a change. Were the leadership to actually lead and start with the cuts then ask for the tax increases I think most folks would be on board.

Anonymous said...

I think the City needs to look hard at middle management and consultants for cuts. The savings are not going to come from laying off a rookie cop making under 30k. The savings come from cleaning house of incompetent managers, consultants, and positions that actually don't deliver a measurable benefit to taxpayers. A lot of people in city government do nothing except attend conferences and do administrative work that can be handled at a level above or a level below if it even needs to be done at all.

Anonymous said...

Another Jackson resident here. I vote #4. Just get it over with already, please? Maybe the city can start making some positive steps if we get this under control.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't have said it better myself @10:19 AM!

Anonymous said...

The problem and solution is the same no matter what level of government. Budgeting is done on a "just how much can we squeeze out revenue" coupled with a "make sure to budget and spend that amount".

A bold move would be to target a spending budget at 75% of previous year's revenues. Yes, people will suffer. But there is no path that asks for the tax paying to pay more taxes so the city can spend more. It has already been shown as a rolling stone down a hill gaining momentum.

This country, this state, this county and this city needs to make the brave choice and realize that our foundation of success in this country is not government led or government answered. Government, in the United States, was styled to be only what was necessary.

The basis for the founding of this country is in the far away demands of a ruler who did not understand the needs of someone local. We are supposed to be States united, not United States.

The progressivism that started in the early 1900s has changed the culture of what being free and liberal is supposed to mean. Both Republicans and Democrats have grown to want to control something they don't like, vs allowing all boats to rise with the tide.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with terminating cops and firefighters, when there are plenty of middle management/consulting positions that can go.

Tax increases on what? When we already pay the highest in the metro as it is.

Ad valorem taxes are ridiculous, property taxes are ridiculous and return on those tax dollars are nil.

But risking public safety, in the name of building a savings account is setting us up for other issues along the way.

Anonymous said...

need to hike taxes on restaurants and hotels.....3%

do it now

Burke said...

Let's go with 4 and rip off the band-aid. Otherwise, as I have now said repeatedly, the best alternative will be a receivership, if not bankruptcy. Better bankruptcy than continue to allow "consultants" to siphon off our tax money. (Kudos to 10:19.)

I trust Councilman Priester to have the best seat in the house for being able to see what needs to happen. I admire his will to do the responsible thing. Let's roll.

Anonymous said...

No. 4 is the only option.

Anonymous said...

I don't think we are at Detroit level of death spiral.....we don't actually owe money like Detroit did....we have obligations we cannot afford....but we don't literally owe any money....and folks will not loan it to us either.

So we will languish without any type of help from a receiver and without any leadership to actually address the problems.

What do you do with 75,000 unemployed, unemployable people who just suck money from the governments. You can bring back all the jobs you want....ain't a soul here going to work one of them.

Jackson just decays and rots.

Anonymous said...

Moody's doesn't want a tax increase, it wants the city to be fiscally prudent. PS--there was already a recent sales tax increase, and the downgrade came just the same, sooo...

Anonymous said...

Raise taxes to increase revenues by $10,000,000.

Cut to the bone....cut all government employees salaries by 10%, all programs, shut the zoo, golf courses, etc.

Start cutting school costs....they don't do a damn thing anyway.

Turn roads and certain blighted subdivisions back to gravel.

Do not continue to act like you are funding a vibrant place....if its a condemned building, cut all service to the place and burn it.

This pile of shit needs to burn from the middle out.

Anonymous said...

The administration is too heavy to start with. The CAO positions were made up to put money in friends pockets courtesy ou the city. Yarborough has a security detail that consist of 4 officer and a fraudulent Commander position. The Police Department is immensely too heavy as well. The upper management is ridiculous and that place has to be restructured to fit its budget. They have 3 commanders in their investigations division. The inept managerial practices have to stop in Jackson. That city is on its way to becoming the Detroit of the south. The city can no longer afford to be sucked on by these poor excuse for leaders. Kingfish ithe structure of city departments throughout have to be streamlined.

Anonymous said...

Jackson Public Schools needs to seriously consider merging some of the high schools and junior high schools. As well as look at what percentage administration accounts for operational costs. Last but not least, stop cross bussing kids all over the school district. Reconsider drawing up new lines that make sense logistically.

Anonymous said...

The issues that drove Detroit to bankruptcy and an appointed trustee:
1. Elected leaders who actively sought to drive white residents out - see Coleman Young mayor 1974- 1994
2. Massive exodus of middle class and thus the tax base to suburbs.
3. Business exodus.
4. Infrastructure decay - water and sewer system that could not be maintained. Huge numbers of poor residents that would not or could not pay their bills.
5. Blocks and blocks and blocks of abandoned homes and businesses. Literally could not GIVE them away. Tried to give them to police or fireman if they would live in the city. No luck.
6. Big corruption investigations and prison terms for elected and appointed leaders. Changed nothing, the corruption continued.
7. Elected leaders refused to budget for huge changes in population (started losing people in the 60s)
8. Massive increase in gangs and violence. More people leave for the suburbs.
9. Gangs would burn abandoned homes each October 30th - was called Devils Night. Made national headlines in the 80s and 90s
10. Raised property taxes.
11. Elected leaders could never face reality that they were broke. 30 years in the making and then Bankruptcy.

Any of this sound remotely familiar?

Anonymous said...

And forgot to include:
12. School system collapse
13. Remaining residents property values nose dive.

Anonymous said...

@9:45AM I couldn't agree with you more about Louis Armstrong! Who in their right mind would hire a convicted felon as a leader of our already troubled city government? The man is supposed to be a professional grant writer. What a joke! He couldn't write a federal grant if his life depended on it. He's the FIRST one that needs to be in the unemployment line...with the other felons

Anonymous said...

I'd be more able to answer if someone on Jackson Jambalaya would post a chart comparing taxes in Jackson to taxes in the suburbs. But maybe that's just me.

I do think it's funny to hear someone like Priester acknowledge that JJ will post relevant factual information long before anyone else in this god-forsaken, barren media desert.

Anonymous said...

August 24, 2016 at 8:09 PM

"2. Massive exodus of middle class and thus the tax base to suburbs."

That's in every major northern city in the midwest, where blacks migrated from the south to get away from institutionalized racism. From Milwaukee, to Chicago, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Boston. Detroit also lost a number of retired city workers, i.e.firefighters, police officers, teachers, bus drivers, etc etc. They had healthy pensions and instead of staying in the city to recycle those dollars, many of them relocated across the country to warmer climates.

As far as speculating, that "Elected leaders actively seeking to drive white residents out" - you can't have it both ways saying there's a mass exodus to the burbs and people seeking to push them out at the same time.

Jackson will be fine. Too much new development to be stressed over what the suburbanites think.

Anonymous said...

I'd be more able to answer if someone on Jackson Jambalaya would post a chart comparing taxes in Jackson to taxes in the suburbs. But maybe that's just me.

Where've you been? Someone has been posting those numbers here at JJ since JJ began. Hit the search engine and catch up.

Anonymous said...

25 commenters here.

Honestly, I'd take any seven randomly and believe they would better serve than the current city council. Yup, any seven.

Anonymous said...

6:26 - no speculating. It is a documented and historical fact. Just go read the lengthy well documented statements by Coleman Young. Our own version in Jackson is K Stokes.

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If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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