Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Priester Speaks!

The Jackson City Council passed the FY 2019 budget last week.  Ward 2 Councilman Melvin Priester, Jr. offered a sober analysis on Facebook:

I've been utilizing social media less and less, still, this week has had enough significant things to happen simultaneously that I think a post is warranted.

The budget is done! Also, we just got walloped by Moodys.

With regards to the budget, things are basically flat operationally. The tax rate is level after two consecutive years of increases. There was a small, long overdue cost-of-living adjustment for city workers. Some restructuring, but not anything major.

The thing that I'm most excited about in this budget is that we are finally investing in some of the backend software and tools necessary to function. For the last year, there has been a lot of very unglamorous work by people doing very tedious tasks. Think of cleaning out cobwebs but in the accounting arena. This work is putting us in the position to implement a number of changes everywhere from municipal court to human resources that will allow us to be a more functional city. I'm genuinely excited to see where this work combined with the investments made in this budget will take the city.

With regards to Moody's, it all boils down to water/sewer. Because of the on-going problems with sending bills and collecting revenue, the city has had to subsidize the water/sewer operations with general funds (i.e. property tax money, sales tax). We had bandwidth to do that this year, we likely won't going forward. Add on to that the consent decree and the impending departure of W. Rankin as a customer, our water sewer department's credit rating took a major hit and our general city credit rating took a slightly smaller hit.

So what are we doing?
1.) leaning on outside contractors to get water/sewer bills out.
2.) hiring and training internal staff to keep bills going out and work with customers to get them to pay.
3.) taking steps to begin re-instituting water cut-offs for non-payment.
4.) working to renegotiate the consent decree
5.) Investing in repairs to the sewage treatment plant to make dropping us as a provider less attractive to W. Rankin (not holding out much hope for that one, Rankin residents are willing to pay a premium to not deal with Jackson).

In sum, everything hinges on turning around water/sewer billing. Locally, we've all recognized that for some time. Moody's just put it on paper, then highlighted it, then double underlined it.

Despite the gut punch of this downgrade, I'm cautiously optimistic. The problems in water/billing have as much to do with our problems in personnel management, accounting, etc. It goes beyond the meters and software. I'm actually seeing the repairs to the backend problems and that gives me hope. Nobody at city hall should be patting themselves on the back right now and this all goes up in flames if we don't get change to stick, but I like the approach that various elements are taking to work in unison. I'm not sure if there is enough time left on the clock, but we have the ball and are running in the right direction.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

They have the ball and are running in the right direction. They shouldn't have waited until they were down 62-3 late in the 4th quarter to do so.

Anonymous said...

So what are we doing?

1. Leaning on outside contractors to get water/sewer bills out, because outside contractors have done a smashing job with water and sewer thus far.

2. Hiring and training internal staff to keep bills going out and work with customers to get them to pay, because we have failed to do this for the last 5 or 6 years, and it's probably time we start.

3. Taking steps to begin re-instituting water cut-offs for non-payment. Mind you, we're not beginning, we're not even taking steps, we're just taking steps to begin. Don't worry, those of you receiving services at no cost are at no risk of getting cut off any time soon.

4. Working to renegotiate the consent decree, because we're incapable of actually addressing the underlying issues, so we'll renegotiate and renegotiate until the EPA forgets what the whole mess was about in the first place.

5. Investing in repairs to the sewage treatment plant to make dropping us as a provider less attractive to W. Rankin (not holding out much hope for that one, Rankin residents are willing to pay a premium to not deal with Jackson). But hey, at least those racists in Rankin gave us a good reason to make repairs to our facilities that are 10 years overdue, so that's a win.

Unknown said...

Not smart enough.

Anonymous said...

WRUA already issued $135 million in bonds to build their wastewater treatment plant. So that wasn’t even worth mentioning.

Anonymous said...

Is a sober analysis of ginormous drunken clusterfuck particularly helpful in getting the furniture, walls and plumbing repaired, the lawn re-sodded and shrubbery replaced, bail posted for those in need, not to mention psychological help for the sheltered gentle souls who thought it was actually going to be a gracious event with a selection of teas, watercress sandwiches, and light classical music...from Friday afternoon until about 6am Monday morning...?

Asking for a friend...no, really, I am - the son of a friend and fraternity brother was elected social chairman at his fraternity and he thinks his father and I are putting him on...

Anonymous said...

close the zoo-

Anonymous said...

West Rankin is not coming back. They have bonds to pay off now. Once MsDEQ issued them the permit to dump in the Pearl River, it was over. West Rankin users will all pay more per month for sewage treatment and so will Jackson users. Worst thing MsDEQ could have done to/for Citizens. So, in four years, or less, Jackson will lose that billing right. Jackson was made the regional sewage treatment provider by MsDEQ and EPA some time ago and now they allowed the region to be divided: Great work government!

As for upgrading billing efficiency and training personnel, why was that not an enforceable part of the Siemens Contract. The $90,000,000.00 Contract with Siemens was supposed to cover this. Of course, that was sold to Jackson by a West Rankin person. Worst contract any city ever signed. Watching this play out and knowing what was happening was a sickening display of greed and malice.

Anonymous said...

On the budget, I don't really believe the numbers, looks like wishful thinking. On the bond ratings, I translate Moody's to S&P. So the City GO's are BBB- (lowest investment grade), the Special Obligation Bonds are BB+ (best junk bond level) and the water & sewer bonds are BB (Solidly in junk bond range). This just means that it will cost the City millions/tens of millions in extra interest, should they decide to issue new bonds. But that doesn't seem too feasible anymore. On the water & sewer past due balances, I think at least 50% of the money the city hopes to collect is in fact un-collectable. Before we get to the next 2019 budget, the Water & Sewer cash flow problems will require another bailout from either the 1% sales tax pool or the City itself.

Anonymous said...

jackson suffered neglect for decades.

deferred maintenance.

the city could not afford to pay its bills if the residents of madison and rankin were included in the analysis.

blame lies everywhere and gets nowhere...except a few clicks here.

bankrupt the city...it is.

petition feds for extraordinary relief for water/sewer in the way of an actual plan and funds to start addressing the issues.

do it sooner rather than later.

get ready for decades of despair if not.

Anonymous said...

Priester may be well educated Harvard Stanford law and st Andrews but this is an uphill battle. Some common sense is much more needed than a pure academic mentality here.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who lives in an upscale neighborhood in north Jackson. When he moved to a new home approximately 12 years ago, he did not receive monthly water bills. He went to the proper department and told them about this. He called several more times, but nothing got resolved. At this point he gave up. Maybe five or more years later he finally got a water bill. To his surprise, it was for only one month and has been ever since.

Anonymous said...

Priester went to Murrah High School, not St. Andrews.

Kingfish said...

Wanna bet?

Anonymous said...

I believe 9:44 has a good idea in petitioning the Feds for extraordinary relief.

Anonymous said...

1057. Correct
1100. Correct.

Went to St Andrews for most of his education, parents moved him to Murrah for last year or two - largely it appeared for future political purposes.


Of course, like most of the upper.income politically powerful families children he was placed in the small, high quality classrooms, not in the general population.

Anonymous said...

@10:57,
Protester went to St. Andrews then transferred to Murrah senior year. Don't make comments you haven't a clue about.

Anonymous said...

Gen pop! I see what you did there...

Anonymous said...

Hey Councilman Erkel - thanks for removing “Dear Diary” from the top of the post this time. Next time, send us some bullet points or sparknotes. I have a full time job and don’t have time to read the whole thing.

Anonymous said...

This is a great post. Is this the same councilman for NE Jackson I hear so many bad things about? I would say to the haters, Carry On Priester!

Anonymous said...

As 12:25 says MP should learn to twitter like the Trump. Stop trying to explain things, Who do you think the voters are, intelligent people? Never get anywhere like that!

Anonymous said...

12:37
NE Jackson has a Republican that thinks he's just brilliant because he graduated from west point and he's going to be defeated soon anyway as he doesn't campaign and puts out 20 signs and has 1 fundraiser in eastover. It's always the establishment republicans that pick this loser. No he's not black either.

Anonymous said...

Is this the same councilman for NE Jackson I hear so many bad things about? I would say to the haters, Carry On Priester!

You are so clueless. Seek help ASAP.

Anonymous said...

10:57, we both were wrong. You did not mention Murrah. I did not mention St. Andrews. In any event, he is a very bright guy.

Anonymous said...

12:54, of course he's a bright guy... I stated that earlier. You did mention st. Andrews in your post earlier. You stated he attended Murrah, not St. Andrews.

Anonymous said...

There are not-so-bright students at St. Andrews and geniuses who dropped out of JPS. I suspect that at the end of the day, at private schools (from kindergarten through grad school) not-so-bright students whose parents can put enough checkbook into the admissions process can and often do, er, "streamline the application," whereas at public schools, esp. those like JPS, the whole reason parents get out the checkbook is to totally foreclose the admissions process. Therein lies at least a large part of the problem.

As to Mr. Priester's high school(s), it simply demonstrates the obvious: that a bright student with a desire to learn and multi-faceted support from the parents can and likely will do well at either. The only real differences Murrah or St. Andrews made for him were tangential to his education. That, too, demonstrates the obvious: that kids not as lucky as Mr. Priester (children don't get to pick their parents) often are unable to overcome the hurdles society puts in front them. And that sucks.

Anonymous said...

9:44....its not as if a bankruptcy does anything other than screw the bond holders. the city will continue to operate just fine. if the water situation is not fixed soon, bankruptcy is by far the best option for the CITIZENS of Jackson. Incoming the white conservative citizens of Fondren. There is nothing to lose. Why the doom and gloom?

I'm not sure why many, many other municipalities have not done this nation wide. Its not like you have equity holders trying to hold it together.

Anonymous said...

"of course he's a bright guy... I stated that earlier. You did mention st. Andrews in your post earlier. You stated he attended Murrah, not St. Andrews. "

Once again, only in Mississippi is so much attention paid to two local high schools. No one has rated either Stanford or Harvard, both also mentioned by 9:57 am in Priester's abbreviated bio, but the feathers are flying over which local high school he attended last.

Anonymous said...

9:33, what is the basis for your “only in Mississippi” comment? And who needs to “rate” Harvard and Stanford? The writer who failed to mention that Priester graduated from Murrah was trying to paint him as privileged because he went to St. Andrews. Typical tactic of the dividers in our midst.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful to hear an analysis from an informed City council person that is straight forward and deals with realities. I also appreciate the mayor and his appointed staff that are educated, experienced and working to improve our city.

Anonymous said...

Sad to see West Rankin leadership be as ignorant and/or self-serving as the leaders who led Jackson astray for decades

That so many see a quality education as a negative and trust intuition over expertise just let's the good ole boys continue to get snookered or do the snookering.

God forbid a Mississippi elected official should ever imagine what he might not know or admit what he doesn't understand or seek the best available expertise himself or herself.

And, your attitudes run off our brightest children. Thankful Melvin is willing to endure the slings and arrows of those who are hopelessly ignorant and those who think graduating from college in one subject gives them expertise in all subjects.


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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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