Archive for May, 2020

Ruston City Council Monday

05/31/2020

Ruston’s City Council will meet Monday, June 1, 5:30, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here’s the agenda.

Judge’s Pay Nipped by Economic Lockdown

05/21/2020

Gov Bel Edwards economic lockdown of Louisiana has resulted in a pay cut, if ever so slight, for Louisiana’s judges.

The Ouachita Citizen’s Zach Parker wrote yesterday that a month ago judges were sent a letter from Supreme Court Justice James Genovese saying that their $900 monthly supplemental pay would be cut to $400/month.

That supplemental pay is funded through filing fees collected by clerks of court.

The base pay of judges is about $152 thousand/year, so the $500/month cut is only about 4%.

Last month we reported on the state’s indigent defenders having to furlough attorneys because of funding shortfalls.

See here Parker’s news story (subscription required).

Interviews Set for Parish Administrator

05/20/2020

Interviews of the eight candidates for Lincoln Parish Police Jury Administrator has been set for Monday, June 1, and Tuesday, June 2, 5:30 PM, Lincoln Parish Library Events Center, 910 North Trenton.

The matter was discussed at last night’s meeting of the jury, and the consensus of the body was to have four interviews each night, of about 20 minutes each.

There was also considerable discussion about the role of current administrator Courtney Hall after the new hire is made.

Late last year, Hall made known his desire to retire, and shortly thereafter the process began to accept applications for the position. He has also said he would remain as long as needed to orient the new administrator.

Jury President Joe Henderson remarked that Hall’s status could be discussed in an executive session after new administrator had been selected.

Said Henderson, “Let’s discuss that then, once we choose the new administrator, and when we are in executive session, we can go into that part.”

Assistant District Attorney Lewis Jones, who serves as the jury’s legal advisor, cautioned the jury about that.

Said Jones, “If the agenda just says you’re going to interview candidates for the administrator position, y’all need to be careful to be careful about talking about the other job for Mr. Hall when you go into executive session.”

Treasurer Chris Hyde noted during his budget report that the funds that are most dependent upon sales taxes are the solid waste fund and the detention center fund. Also, the Lincoln Parish Park depends upon a hotel/motel tax that has been impacted by the economic lockdown.

During the Public Works Committee meeting, there was some discussion about the grass cutting crew only cutting the shoulders of the parish’s roads, rather than the complete right-of-way. It was said that this was done in an effort to catch up, and that the rest of the right-of-way would be mowed later.

Right-of-way cutting had been a significant issue in last fall’s jury elections.

Walker: “Shop Ruston & Lincoln Parish First”

05/19/2020

Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker ended last night’s meeting of the Board of Aldermen with a plea for everyone to shop locally and to frequent the area’s eating places.

Said Walker, “Remember to shop our restaurants…we need to do more of shopping Ruston and Lincoln Parish first.”

He added that anyone contemplating voluntary medical procedures should consider Lincoln General Hospital, as it was one of the best facilities in the state.

One of the unforeseen effects of the Covid-19 panic has been that many people have foregone elective surgeries and regular doctor visits. That has resulted in significant job losses among medical personnel around the country.

Walker’s remarks followed City Treasurer Julie Keen’s report on the city’s finances.

Keen reported that the total March sales taxes decreased about $147 thousand, and the hotel/restaurant tax decreased about $50 thousand, or about 28%. That tax is the funding source for the bonds used to build phase II of the sports complex.

She noted that the April sales tax figures would likely be even lower.

Earlier in the meeting, the council adopted a revised penalties and violations amendment to the city’s code of ordinances.

See here the document.

Louisiana Judge’s Finances Disclosed

05/18/2020

Last week the Louisiana Supreme Court made public for the first time the financial disclosure documents of all of Louisiana’s judges. The reports are for the 2018 calendar year.

Here are the judges that Lincoln Parish voters have had a say in electing.

2nd Circuit Court of Appeal – Jay B. McCallum
2nd Circuit Court of Appeal – Jeffrey S. Cox

Third Judicial District Court – Bruce E. Hampton
Third Judicial District Court – Jeffrey L. Robinson
Third Judicial District Court – Thomas W. Rogers

Ruston City Court – Danny W. Tatum

See here the complete list of all Louisiana judges.

Lincoln Parish Police Jury to Meet Tuesday

05/17/2020

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury will meet for the first time since March, in a special called meeting set for Tuesday, May 19. Rather than at the court house, the meeting will be at the Lincoln Parish Events Center, 910 North Trenton.

Here are the meeting times and agendas:

Public Works Committee – 5:30 PM – Agenda

Police Jury – 6:00 PM – Agenda

Notable items will be the treasurer’s report, and discussion on the schedule for interviews for the position of Parish Administrator.

See here a list of the applicants.

Ruston City Council Monday

05/15/2020

The Regular/Special Meeting of the Board of Aldermen of the City of Ruston, Louisiana will be held on Monday, May 18, 2020, at 5:30 p.m. at the Council Chambers/Courtroom at Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here’s the agenda.

Here’s a notice posted on the city’s website:

In view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, comments from the public on Agenda items by persons who do not attend the meeting in person may be made prior to the meeting by email to astegall@ruston.org by 3:00 p.m. on the day of the meeting or at the meeting. Social distancing will be utilized at the meeting, and City personnel will wear masks or face coverings. Members of the public attending the meeting are also encouraged to wear masks or face coverings.

Another Louisiana Town Mutinies Against Bel Edwards

05/13/2020

Many, LA mayor won’t enforce governor’s proclamation effective Friday

By Vicki Welborn – KTBS-TV3, Shreveport, LA

MINDEN, La. – Many Mayor Ken Freeman is lifting all restrictions in the town on Friday and said he no longer will actively enforce the governor’s latest proclamation.

He’s leaving it up to the town’s residents to do what they think is best to protect themselves from the coronavirus.

And for local merchants who want to open their businesses, the only suggestion coming from Freeman is encouraging them to have their employees wear masks, sanitize counters and shopping buggies, maintain a screen between clerks and customers and practice social distancing.

“In the last three months of federal, local and state proclamations, I think that we, the people, fully understand the risk and dangers of the (coronavirus). I believe we also understand what measures we must take to protect ourselves, family and community from this danger,” Freeman said in a statement.

He notes that Gov. John Bel Edwards during the same time frame has not enforced his emergency proclamation, instead relying on local governments and “most of all citizens voluntarily adhering to his proclamation.”

New Way of Teaching Coming to Lincoln Schools

05/13/2020

Significant changes are coming to the way Lincoln Parish School District students will receive their education, according to a new plan unveiled at last night’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish School Board.

Assistant Superintendent Lisa Bastion said “Regardless of what happens (in the future), our students have to continue learning.”

The different style of teaching could be implemented during school closures, or if schools were to open in shifts, with some students attending the first part of a the week, and the remainder the rest of the week. Also, a flexible school calendar may be part of the plan.

She said “Lincoln Strong Start 2020” will plan for delivery of virtual instruction in some form. Possibilities include video recorded lessons that could be viewed live or sometime later, online instruction for students, a technology device for all students to access the information, and connectivity for students who don’t presently have that capability.

The recently enacted CARES act would provide funding for purchase of the technology devices.

Said Bastion, “Online learning for the students would become a normal part of the learning process.” She added, “We know what we have to do, and our employees are committed to doing what they have to do help our students.”

The plan would be for all students, K through 12.

The board also approved reducing the May salary supplement check by $800 for certified employees, and $400 to support employees, per recommendation by district leadership.

Danny Hancock (District Five) was the only no vote.

A couple of board members apologized to employees for voting for the cuts, but said it was necessary because of the revenue shortfalls.

Business manager Juanita Duke said that further cuts would likely be needed, and that further changes for the health plan are being reviewed.

Despite the plea by several House of Raeford representatives for an industrial tax exemption, the board voted unanimously to deny the application.

The company is building a new poultry feed mill in Simsboro, that will replace an old facility in Choudrant. The new mill is expected to support about 80 more growing houses than at present.

Added 5/14/20 – 1:45 PM

Here’s the presentation made by Lisa Bastion

Lincoln strong start 2020

  • Foundation to a strong start
  • High Quality Curriculum
  • High Quality Teacher Development
  • High Quality Assessments

Major Focus for Lincoln

A professional development plan with options for versatile delivery of training on curriculum, instruction, and technology, in anticipation of school closures or modified operations

  • Identify student’s academic needs
  • Have a plan for each student’s unfinished learning
  • Provide support for early readers
  • Provide for emotional, behavioral, and mental health screenings and services
  • Provide compensatory education and support for students with disabilities

A Strong start for every student

Options for Lincoln

  • All teachers would deliver virtual instruction regularly so students and teachers are comfortable if school closures or modifications are required. Teachers would be required to have designated “office hours” to address questions, re-teaching, or enrichment for students or parents.
  • Teacher recorded video lessons in all classes would be available for students to access. This access could help students who are absent and serve as a strategy or support for struggling, homebound, or home school students.
  • On-line instruction would become part of the normal teaching process.
  • All students would receive a technology device to use and be responsible for, and students in grades 3-12 would carry devices to school and from school everyday.
  • Students would receive grades (either numerical or P/F) on work completed through online instruction.
  • Suspended and or alternative school students would have access to teacher recorded instructional videos.
  • On-line learning would become part of the normal learning process.

Requirements for Receiving federal monies

  • Administer high quality screeners in ELA and Math to students to assess their learning needs
  • Continue with aligned curricular materials in core classes, and non-core courses; continue students on their graduation paths
  • Provide supports for social and mental health, English Learners, and students with disabilities along with services and devices (including compensatory education reviews and services)
  • Develop a comprehensive professional development plan for teachers to address distance learning protocols and methods by June 30
  • Continue to provide training for mentor teachers and content leaders either virtually or in-person
  • Develop an adaptive staffing plan to be used during school closures or during modified operations
  • Develop a plan to reopen schools following state and local public health guidance
  • Adopt a flexible school calendar to maximize learning opportunities throughout the year
  • Develop a strategic communication plan, which during school closures or modified openings would ensure that teachers are connecting with students daily, feedback is provided weekly to students, and assist families in understanding their role in their students’ continuous learning
  • Provide 1:1 student ratio for devices AND connectivity for all Pre K-12 students for use at home
  • Maintain at minimum, the same number of Pre K seats as in 2019-2020 school year.

 

Louisiana Legislative Auditor Forecasts Local Revenue Shortfall Amounts

05/12/2020

The Louisiana Legislative Auditor issued late last week a forecast of estimated revenue losses for local governments for the remainder of fiscal year 2020 (which ends 6/30/2020), and fiscal year 2021 (which runs 7/1/2020 – 6/30/2021). The forecast has an optimistic and pessimistic estimate of revenue losses.

From the summary:

We estimate that parish governing authorities, municipalities, school boards, and sheriffs will collectively experience revenue losses in sales, ad valorem, and severance taxes and mineral royalties ranging from $404.7 million to $1.1 billion (2.3% to 6.9%) during fiscal years 2020 and 2021, with an average total loss of $787.5 million (4.6%).

These losses would be between 1.0% to 2.8% of total local government revenues from all sources, or 1.4% to 4.0% of general revenues (which excludes grants and charges for services). These estimates are based on assumptions that the number of people employed in Louisiana will decrease by 197,000 to 317,000 (as distinguished from unemployment claims) and will take two to five years to recover, along with other specific assumptions about different sectors of the state’s economy, as explained in Appendix A of the report.

See here the summary.

The report also estimates revenue losses for all the local governmental agencies in the state – cities, towns, schools, sheriffs, police juries, etc.

For Lincoln Parish, the report forecasts the following averages:

Muncipalities:

2020 – $567 thousand reduction (-3.3%)
2021 – $1.2 million reduction (-7.4%)

Police Jury:

2020 – $207 thousand reduction (-1.6%)
2021 – $379 thousand reduction (-3.1%)

School Distict:

2020 – $751 thousand reduction (-2.0%)
2021 – $1.5 million reduction (-5.0%)

Sheriff:

2020 – $94 thousand reduction (-1.3%)
2021 – $188 thousand reduction (-2.6%)

See here the complete report.

Again this is but a forecast, and the actual shortfalls may vary, depending upon how quickly Gov. Bel Edwards ends the economic lockdowns that have been in place since mid-March, and how quickly Louisiana’s economy recovers, if ever, from that self-inflicted economic injury.

All this is a stark lesson to the public sector that ALL your revenues ultimately originate with businesses and taxpayers who work there. It is in the best economic interest of the public sector to encourage a healthy, growing economy.

Otherwise, you all die of revenue starvation.