The Meridian Star
Is bond issue prudent?
Now that the election has eliminated the conflict of interest situation the focus can be on the other two problems brought to light by the $14 million bond issue rushed through over Easter weekend by Lauderdale County’s “gang of four.”
The U.S. Senate and their “gang of eight” have nothing on us except twice as many gang members. Their gang wants to burden U.S. citizens with all the consequences of illegal immigrant amnesty and our gang wants our county’s citizens to accept record debt and spending.
Surely there must be a competition of some kind or a prize for the county that can borrow the most money in the shortest period of time. In that arena, Lauderdale will surely be a leading contender with $24 million approved by our Board of Supervisors in only 15 months. “Oh, but the interest rate is so low.” That logic might fly if the borrowing was to be used like refinancing a home mortgage at a lower rate, but there is no “refi” here as the recent $14 million is purportedly all for new spending.
In fact, in reading the long list of items, issues, and activities that the resolution approves spending for, the only thing that appears to be missing is “for retiring existing debt.”
And there must be an awful lot of bond issue related debt already on the books with 11 bond issues still being paid on, I hear. I qualify that statement with the “I hear” because I have not confirmed that yet, although the parties I heard discussing the matter appeared quite knowledgeable in that regard.
In an effort to confirm, a cursory review of the county’s audited financial statements does not reveal the most current information as the last year shown is the 2010 year ending Sept. 30, 2011. That info is now 20 months old. Most of that type information is available on the website at Mississippi Office of the State Auditor which should be updated with last year’s info soon.
However, what that cursory review did reveal was the total revenue of the county for the two years prior to the most recent fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2012. In the year ending September 2011 revenue was $37,850,571, a very slight uptick from the $37,419,265 for the year ending September 2010.
The most obvious question this raises in my mind is: Is it prudent to borrow — to approve borrowing — an amount, $24 million, equal to approximately 63 percent of an entire year’s revenue in a period of 15 months, all of which borrowing is designated for new spending?
There are so many questions this issue raises that there is not nearly enough space to get into more of them here — such as, are there, in fact, 11 bond issues that are still being paid on, and going back how many years from their date of execution; how much bond issue debt is still on the books; how much bond issue debt has been used, and is being used, to fund ordinary annual operating expenses, and many many more? I plan to learn the answers so please “stay tuned.”
Back to the current topic and the process that brought us here. Yes, the petition to allow the citizens of the county to decide if they wanted to approve a $14 million bond issue, did indeed fail—at least so far. If there is no change, the resolution approved on a three to two vote “under the cover of darkness” of a no notice, no public hearings, no “workshops” where the public could have input, on Easter Monday, will stand. Bottom line of that is that our civil servant leaders will have an additional $14 million to spend as they please.
I say “as they please” because there is no specificity in that resolution, designating that the money be spent on the three recreational facilities and improvements to the court house which have been identified as the purpose.
The two supervisors that the resolution was sprung on unexpectedly on Easter Monday morning, Wayman Newell and Kyle Rutledge, have been consistent in their attempts to have the issue put to a vote of the citizens through a referendum. Just as consistent and resolute though, have been President Hank Florey, and supervisors Joe Norwood and Josh Todd, and “aided and abetted” by county attorney, Rick Barry, to see the three to two board vote stand with no referendum.
There is only one reason these guys could possibly have for being so adamantly opposed to a vote by the citizens. They know without any doubt in their minds that this dog wouldn’t get 40 percent of the voters’ votes, let alone the 60 percent required for it to pass. “Oh but the interest rate is so low.” Please. Spare me!
On May 28 the Meridian Star ran a column titled Census report outlines school spending.
The article stated that the 50 state average per student was $10,560 and Mississippi was at the bottom, spending $7,928 per student.
The Children First annual report 2009/2010 shows Mississippi spending $8,929, while the Meridian Public School District spent $10,360 per student, close to the national average and not at the bottom.
Every year I hear how the teachers have to spend their own money to provide students with basic supplies. Lately I have been told that there is a shortage of text books and some have to be copied and that many teachers lack appropriate computer support. I have no way to know if any of this is true but have been given no reason to doubt it.
The school district operates on a $65 to $70 million dollar budget administered by a handful of appointed board members accountable to no one.
Over the past five years they have found funds for the following:
• Most recently, a field house which is mostly locker/ offices and storage for the football team for $2.7 to $3 million dollars. Renamed the Multiply purpose building to make the cost more political correct.
• A new artificial surface for the football field. Donated by concerned groups. Really an interest free loan with a balloon payment due in six years when it needs to be replaced. The school system, i.e. taxpayer, will have to come up with several hundred thousand dollars to cover the cost which will come due every six to eight years, forever.
• New lights for the football field at $180,000.
• New track and tennis courts that were in dire need of repair or replacement due to poor oversight and upkeep.
• Currently discussing buying land to build two ball fields south of the school?
It is also strange to me that you can look up about what a teacher makes but superintendents, principals and coaches salaries are secret. Could it be it would embarrass the district if they were public?
Most of the items were not budgeted for and required bond issues. It is time the district was run like a business with capital expenditures planned and budgeted for and priorities set. If the school system really lacks educational supplies the boards priorities appear to be askew.
Most of these expenses are sports related. I support strong sports programs and would rather win than lose, but we should not lose site that they are extra curricular activities and not the main mission of the school system.
I welcome opposing views and any corrections to my facts. Getting information through The Freedom of Information Act is not free.
Impressed with Meridian
Wow! What a great time I had in Meridian! I recently attended the Mississippi Society of Association Executives’ Spring Conference in Meridian. The coordinated effort of all involved – tourism, economic development, chamber of commerce, the hotels, and the local venues – was flawless!
I loved the time and energy that went into focusing on your local venues, local caterers and the local talent! Meridian is definitely on my radar for a return visit! Everyone was so friendly and helpful! And, for those that have not been to the MSU Riley Center, it is a “must do” for an upcoming concert!
Being a former chamber of commerce director, I know all the planning and coordination that must take place to pull off any major event. Kudos and thanks to all involved with this showcase of your city! You can be very proud that this conference was … Pure Perfection!
of Dyar Communication Strategy