Archive for April, 2010

But Are They Paying Their “Fair Share?”

04/30/2010

Today we have this account from Gannett’s Deputy Press Secretary for Government, Mike Hasten.

Retired teachers rally against legislation

More than 700 retired educators from across the state rallied on the Capitol steps Thursday urging the Legislature to kill bills that they believe are bad for teachers and pass ones they support.

Of particular concern are House Bill 1229, which would consolidate four retirement systems, and a set of bills that would shift new teachers to a new type of retirement that would depend on the stock market and not guarantee benefits, as the current system provides.

Anytime you see a gaggle of retired state employees gathering to twist legislators arms about “their” money, ask one of them why they’re not paying their fair share of state taxes.

See the list here for those getting a free ride. Among those listed:

State Employees’ Retirement System
Funded Judicial Retirement Plan
Teachers’ Retirement System
Louisiana School Employees’ Retirement System
Louisiana State Police Pension and Retirement Fund

The list goes on and on…

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Now Sally’s Threatening to Retire

04/28/2010

The day after it was uncovered that Commissioner of Higher Education Sally Clausen was taking a pay cut, it has been revealed she’s contemplating retirement.

See the story in The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune.

Also of interest in the story was that the reporter contacted other government plutocrats and asked when/if they were going to cut their pay.

Ruston State School Shuttered

04/27/2010

The Northeast Support and Services Center, formerly known as the Ruston Developmental Center and locally known as the Ruston State School, was ordered closed today after a Louisiana State Inspector General’s report was released that was critical of the facility’s employee overtime.

The facility will close December 31, 2010.

Here is the story in The (Monroe) News-Star.

Here is the Inspector General Report.

According to Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) Public Information Officer Olivia Watkins, the agency “will release a policy statement Friday that will address the issue.”

Lincoln Parish News Online had reported on the story last year here and here.

WAFB-TV in Baton Rouge first broke the story.

Regents Head Takes Pay Cut

04/27/2010

Sally Clausen, Louisiana’s Commissioner of Higher Education, took a big pay cut yesterday. Here is the story in The (Baton Rouge) Advocate.

Her salary will dip from $377,000 to $199,000 for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Clausen also will forgo $48,000 in combined annual housing and vehicle allowances, which made her total annual pay package $425,000.

It’s about damn time.

Board of Regents Vice Chair Robert W. Levy (who in his spare time serves as Lincoln/Union District Attorney) said, “We’re going to be asking everyone to sacrifice. We would hope that everyone has a sense of shared sacrifice.”

The Board of Regents sits at the apex of the hydra-headed monster that is Louisiana’s higher education governing bureaucracy.

Perhaps now we can see the obscene pay ($550,000/yr) of the loudmouth LSU System President John Lombardi follow suit. You’ll remember Lombardi appearing on TV and at the Capitol endlessly poor-mouthing about how hard times are.

And could we ask University of Louisiana at Monroe’s (ULM) President James Cofer to at least pay the utility bill at his million-dollar crib, Bon Aire? Surely that wouldn’t be too much to ask for someone knocking down $252,886/year on the backs of the taxpayers.

Especially since he doesn’t have to make a house note.

Legislative Auditor Whacks LED

04/26/2010

The Louisiana Legislative Auditor has released a report critical of Louisiana’s Department of Economic Development.

From the report:

LED does not evaluate the effectiveness of most business incentive programs it administers. Of the 29 business incentive programs LED administered during fiscal year 2008, officials could only provide evidence that the department evaluated the effectiveness of the five entertainment industry business incentive programs. These incentive programs represent approximately $56 million (25.8%) of the $217 million2 in tax incentives LED awarded to businesses during fiscal year 2008. LED could not provide evidence that it evaluated the effectiveness of the remaining $161 million (74.2%) in tax incentives it awarded that year. In addition, LED does not publicly report on the effectiveness of all the business incentive programs it administers. Specifically, LED has not fulfilled two program-specific and one general statutory reporting requirement or a legislative request to annually review the effectiveness of all tax exemptions and tax credits enacted by the legislature.

See the story in The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune.

Louisiana auditor says economic development agency fails to evaluate tax incentive programs

BOHICA, Ouachita Parish Property Owners

04/25/2010

From The Ouachita Citizen last week.

Property tax hike possible

Meanwhile Ouachita Parish Police Juror Charles Jackson is still trying to figure out how to renege on his promise of returning the V-Vehicle tax money.

“I’m encouraged,” said Ouachita Police Juror Charles Jackson, who drove the car during the showing at James Davison’s Squire Creek Country Club subdivision. “If they’re able to get the federal loan and still need the $15 million, I think our obligation is to put up the money.”

BOHICA, taxpayers.

The Car They Told us Last Year They Had

04/23/2010

Yesterday, the V-Car was finally revealed – the car that we were told V-Vehicle Company had last year. Do you remember “I’ve sat behind the wheel” from Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo? Our skepticism as to whether there actually was a car at the time was well founded and now has been proved out.

Here are three news stories published this morning.

VVC shows plastic-body car
V-Vehicle will try again for federal loans to build Monroe car plant
State leaders get behind wheel of V-Vehicle

While the politicians (Rep. Frank Hoffman, Ed.D. and Senator Mike “Clutch” Walsworth) were predictably ga-ga, the big questions of how it will be sold and when/if/how additional private capital will be raised remain unanswered. These were the issues the Department of Energy (DOE) were concerned with when last month they denied an Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) Program loan to the company.

We wonder if the politicians will invest their own money as eagerly as they are to commit Taxpayer dollars, aka OPM – other people’s money.

Earlier today, the dog-and-pony show made it to Choudrant’s Squire Creek Country Club.

Area government leaders, company investors see and drive V-Vehicle in Choudrant
V-Vehicle boss: Car validates dream

Friday Night Lights, Ruston Style

04/21/2010

It looked like a parent’s day casting call for a Ruston version of Friday Night Lights. At least a dozen football boosters were there – folks that you don’t usually see at the regular school board meetings.

At today’s noon meeting of the Lincoln Parish School Board’s Building & Grounds and Finance Committees, it was decided to recommend to the full board that some $1.6 million be spent on renovations to the Ruston High School (RHS) football team field house, and artificial turf for the playing field.

RHS Athletic Director Billy Laird introduced Tim Brandon, CEO of TBA Studio – a West Monroe architecture firm – who presented preliminary plans to refurbish the existing field house beneath the football stadium and add on some new space.

The project would completely rehabilitate the interior of the existing building and add some new offices. The structure would take up most all the space beneath the east side stadium and “would be just as nice as what West Monroe and Neville have.”

The project is estimated to cost about $850 thousand and would take about four months to design and get ready for bids. Construction was estimated at about seven months.

Also making a presentation was Mike Allen of Vibra-Whirl Sports, LTD., a supplier of artificial turf for athletic playing fields. Allen presented a proposal that estimated the installation cost at about $770 thousand, but would save about $47 thousand annually in maintenance costs, according to his estimate. Ninety to one hundred twenty days would be needed for installation.

LPSB Business Manager George Murphy presented a memorandum showing how much money was available in the capital budget what other commitments were outstanding. Existing projects amounted to about $1.5 million, and the total budgeted amount for the year was about $3.3 million.

Mark Richard of the Ruston High School Football Booster Club spoke for the group and said, “When the existing facilities were built in the 1950s, it was state-of-the art. It’s time we got back to that standard.”

One other visitor asked what were the chances of floating a tax and bond issue to build a state-of-the-art three to four million dollar stand-alone field house. Superintendent Danny Bell said he didn’t think the area political climate would support a new tax, considering the state of the economy. “I would be hesitant to put my neck on the line right now,” Bell said. He mentioned the Ruston Tea Party event held last week at Railroad Park.

V-Vehicle Admits Knowing Money Was Short

04/21/2010

An official with V-Vehicle Company admitted today that they always knew that the company might not have put up enough private capital to fund the company’s operations and get a Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVTM) Program loan.

“We’ve always known that the (Energy Department) might ask us to raise more equity,” said David Hitchcock in an interview with The (Monroe) News-Star.

Allow us to translate: We tried to get the taxpayers to pay for it all, but we got caught.

More about yesterday’s V-Vehicle post

After yesterday’s story about GuideCo Properties LLC’s tax delinquency, we were reminded of that timeless quote from Leona Helmsley: “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.”

School Board Committee Meeting Today

04/21/2010

The Building & Grounds and Finance Committees of the Lincoln Parish School Board will meet today at noon at Ruston High School. The meeting will be in the teacher’s lounge.

On the agenda will be discussion of stadium improvements. Presumably, this will include consideration of improvements to the field house. That issue had been presented to the board at the December meeting.

We will have a full report after today’s meeting.