Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Jackson Budget Follies continue

Jackson Ward 2 Councilman Melvin Priester, Jr.  made several recommendations about how to fix Jackson's budget problems recently.  Most of these suggestions will sound very familiar to JJ readers.  Compare Mr. Priester's favorite option to what JJ posted a year ago.

Mr. Priester said recommended

 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.

JJ hates to say we told ya so but..... we told ya.   JJ suggested a year ago:

That was the news, now for the opinion. The problem is except for Ward 1 Councilman Ashby Foote, no one on the city council has owned or operated a business.  They are thinking not like liberals or conservatives but people who have been in government their whole lives and do not know what to do.  Well, the Kingfish is going to offer some suggestions in order to help them see things in a different way.

There are basic functions a city government must provide: police, fire protection, water and sewer service, trash removal, and road maintenance.  Everything else is gravy.  It makes no sense to cut personnel in public works when everyone knows Jackson's infrastructure is falling apart while Jackson carries museums, gardens, and golf courses on its books.

The City Council has been committing financial suicide for quite some time but the finances have gotten much worse ever since Chowke Lumumba became Mayor. Here are some reminders:

*Mayor Lumumba hiked the budget by 40%.  Part of the increase was to begin infrastructure projects BUT he managed to pour the government honey in other areas- such as his office.  Yup. Mayor Lumumba gave his office a $1 million budget increase so he could stuff the payroll with his cronies.

*The city council instituted an increase in minimum wage for city employees even though revenues were flat.  If you pay them, the money will come.  Great slogan for the city council's mindset.

*The loss of businesses such as Puckett Machinery.  All Puckett wanted was some curb cutouts for its facilities on Highway 80.  Mayor Harvey Johnson couldn't even return the phone calls for help.  Sources say the city lost sales tax revenue that was over a million dollars. That is just one business.

*The city council budget.  The city council operates the city clerk's office.  The city council made sure all council members had a full-time assistant and made them employees under the city clerk.  The clerk's office has not one but TWO policy analysts.  The city council has steadily increased the number of employees and the budget of the city clerk with no regard for paying for this honeypot.

*Then there are the collections in public works.  Mr. Foote said the city was collecting water/sewer fees that were $20 million short of what they should be.  The Raftelis report focuses on Jackson's mismanagement of this basic service.  This little fact ties into.... (KF Note: One year later, this number is disputed.)

*The city council abolished the reconnect fees for water and sewer service.  If your cable, cellphone, or electric services are stopped, you have to pay a reconnect-fee in order to re-establish service.  It acts as an additional incentive to pay the bill on time.  Jackson removed that fee after Ms. Stokes threw a tantrum over it so Jackson residents have one less incentive to pay their water bills on time.

The city council should not look at furloughs nor layoffs but instead look at cutting whole departments.  Is each department one that the city should continue to operate and fund?  Want some suggestions? Here is a short list:

*The Planetarium.  Give it to the Mississippi Museum of Art.  Its nice, its cute, its fun for the kids, but it is not making money for the city and it is an expense Jackson can not afford.  It is already part of the same building as the Museum.  Just give it to them and get it off of the books. 

*Mynelle Gardens.  Its a beautiful place and has provided wonderful memories for many a bride.  However, the city can't really afford to operate or promote Mynelle Gardens. Give it to a non-profit organization or the state.   Get it off the books.

*The municipal golf courses.  Jackson  makes little, if any money on the golf courses.  Parks and recreation are a proper function of government.  However, it is completely misguided when Jackson wastes money on a golf course used by few while it does not even have a dog park- something that is popular in most major cities.   There are currently three public golf courses in Jackson.  Three.

*The Municipal Art Gallery.  There are several museums in Jackson.  The city can not afford to operate the Municipal Art Gallery.  It doesn't have the resources to invest in it nor promote it. I love art.  I am a member of two museums.  Art has a very valuable place in society.  It should be used to enlighten and educate.  However, Jackson does not have the money to carry the gallery.  It is time to either shut it down or give the assets to MMA and sell the building.  Get it off the books.

*The Jackson Zoo.  The burbs benefit from the Jackson Zoo and make no mistake, they put it on their list of amenities when they are recruiting businesses.  Its time to move the zoo from a city-operated zoo to one that is regional.  That means a regional board.  Jackson foots the bill for the zoo and makes up the shortfalls when the zoo needs the money.   The burbs should chip in for its operation.  However, the burbs will expect to play if they are paying.  That means a regional board of trustees overseeing the operation of the zoo although it should be weighted for population.  Jackson needs to take a long look at what it wants and what it can afford.

*Capital Complex. The state wants it.  Give it to them.  Let the state maintain its own infrastructure for the capital complex.  The state can provide primary law enforcement while Jackson.  Charge the state a fee for the fire protection.  JPD will have a reduced area to cover.  Jackson can focus on providing services to other areas.  Get it off the books. 

The city council needs to get some spine and swing an axe at departments and programs that are not a part of a city government's core functions.  Mayor Yarber said the city was spending at a level for a population of 200,000 when getting revenue for a population of only 174,000.  Something has to change and it needs to change now. Layoffs and furloughs are a mild tonic compared to what really needs to be done.  The city council can either start some serious cutting or face a reckoning as Detroit faced.

However, 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.   They won't fix anything unless they are forced to look down the barrel of the deficit gun they loaded. 

Kingfish note: These suggestions are a starting point.  I focused on items that create recurring expenses, not what could be gained or lost if an asset is sold or given away.  JJ warned these guys a year ago that Jackson would reach this point and now it has. 


Anonymous said...

Taxes will get raised but the cuts will never materialize. You are watching the implosion in real-time.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget about the entire Cultural Services component of the Department of Human and Cultural Services. No reason for Brad Franklin to remain on the city's payroll.

Anonymous said...

What the hell does Brad Franklin do?

Anonymous said...

From the JFP:
"Franklin is the marketing specialist for Jackson's Department of Human and Cultural Services, in which he is responsible for booking and promoting events at Thalia Mara Hall, the Russell C. Davis Planetarium and the Arts Center of Mississippi."

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine that this will be close to fixing the budget woes, but it's a good start. Of course, the state may toss a hot potato or two back considering that they are trimming budgets. But, if they do take them, I'd expect improvements.

Stearman said...

He pilots a suicide aeroplane.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget about the state budget follies featuring Deputy Phil, Tater, and Flip Gunn.

Burke said...

Did Yarber keep the Lumumba budget for the Mayor's office?

You made sense last year, and even more so this year. The City needs a thorough reboot. Who will help me plant the wheat? said the Little Red Hen.

Anonymous said...

Agree with KF , but this could be achieve with a white mayor only , and am black as we come saying this . I remember attending a fund raiser for Dale Danks , when a grate black legend said to me , not so fast , we need them (white folks) , can you emargin how many pot holes you'll have with a black mayor . Madison was a hamlet and Pearl was a trailer house city then . Question is how many young graduates from JSU , MSU or Ole Miss will place their child in a Jackson Public School elementary program ? . Your best bet will be a private school at an enormous cost , add that to your mortgage and student loan ,you are better off in Byram , Clinton , Madison or Rankin , just saying ,not bashing . We now have Tony Yarber and his problems . Vote for the next white person to save your property values . Just saying .

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

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!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS