A resolution calling for a December 8 tax election to re-impose two expiring 5 mil property taxes dedicated to streets and the fire department was unanimously passed at last night’s meeting of the Town of Jonesboro’s Board of Aldermen.
Had it not been for been for Fiscal Administrator Bill Ryder discovering that the two taxes were about to expire, a critical deadline would have been missed and the levies could not have been collected for tax year 2013, according to town attorney Doug Stokes.
Said Stokes, “The only date that’s left is December 8th. He noted, “If you pass the resolution calling for the tax election – pass it tonight – and we send it to the newspaper tomorrow, we’re barely going to make the 45 to 90 day window.”
The two levies bring in revenues of about $85 thousand/year each, according to recent budget figures.
After a bit of discussion about how the resolution did not have language that would allow the revenue stream to pay off any bonds, the resolution passed. Stokes said he was not able to get input from the town’s bond attorney, and did not have the technical expertise to word the resolution for that purpose.
It was also noted that the Louisiana State Bond Commission would have to approve the election, and if the levy passed, the council would have to promulgate the results and adopt the ordinance prior to the end of the year.
Said Stokes, “We have no margin for error” in the timetable.
Thompson Admits Mistake on Police Dept Firing Issue
Earlier in the meeting, the town’s controversial mayor Leslie Thompson was forced to admit mistakes in breaking the tie in a vote last month on Resolution 1221. This was the resolution that officially “fired” the town’s officers, except for the Chief, who is an elected official.
See here our reporting last month: Atty General Opinion, La Supreme Court: Vote on Jonesboro Police Department Resolution Invalid.
Admitted Thompson, “I had a talk with the attorney – our attorney Doug – the other day, and since I received a packet of information from him in regards to this, he said that we were out of order in that we should – I did not have the right to vote to break a tie, in light of the fact that there were five members here.”
After some discussion about a new resolution to declare that resolution void, it was decided that since Resolution #1221 was flawed and had no validity, no action was needed.
Rodeo Arena vs Sewer Repair LGAP Funding
Despite last month being cited for problems with the town’s drinking water system, the board voted last night to apply for Local Government Assistance Program (LGAP) funds to repair the rodeo arena, rather that apply for money to repair a sewer lift station that has experienced chronic problems.
The application for the money would need to be applied for by the end of the week, Thompson said. District B’s Renee Stringer said that the money could be used for the sewer repair.
A motion to apply for the money for that purpose by Stringer died for lack of a second. A motion to apply for funding for the arena subsequently passed.
Former Fire Chief Fired Again
The board also voted formally to terminate former Fire Chief David Roberts.
Last July, the town lost a lawsuit that Roberts had filed where he alleged he was not properly terminated. Second Judicial (Bienville, Claiborne, Jackson parishes) District Division B Judge Jimmy Teat ruled that a department head’s termination had to be specifically voted upon, and that had not been done when Mark Treadway was appointed to take Roberts’ place.
The town’s attorney said the town had three choices going forward: take no action, appeal the ruling, or pay the judgement.
An appeal, which Thompson said he wanted to pursue, would cost about $2500. There was also some concern that future state legislation might outlaw any borrowing by a municipality that had outstanding judgements against it.
Stokes said that it was unlikely the plaintiff could collect any money if the town refused to pay, since town assets could not be seized to collect on a civil judgement.
Said Stokes, “Unlike if someone sues me for a car wreck, and they get a judgement, then I have to pay the judgement or they can start seizing my house or my car. That is not the case with the city.” He noted, “That’s a big difference between the judgement against the parish or municipality, and an individual.”
However, legislation that would hold towns accountable for outstanding judgements was defeated in the last session of the legislature, but could be reintroduced, it was noted.
The board decided to defer until next month a decision on whether to appeal Teat’s ruling.
Fiscal Administrator Reporting
At the end of the meeting, there was a bit of grumbling by Thompson and some of the board about Fiscal Administrator Bill Ryder’s lack of reporting to the board, and how much he was being paid.
Stokes pointed out that since Ryder did not work for or report to the mayor and board, any motion would be only a request, and would have no real authority.
Ryder’s authority exists by virtue of a court order, Stokes noted.
The board voted to request weekly reports from Ryder.