Archive for August, 2020

2% COLA Included in Ruston Budget


Last Thursday’s review of the City of Ruston’s FY 2020/2021 budget had a bit of discussion about pay raises for city employees, specifically a 2% cost of living adjustment that has been customarily awarded for many years.

Alderman Jim Pearce suggested that the raise be delayed until sales tax revenues improve.

“We’re just in times that we haven’t ever seen before, and we don’t know what will happen,” he said. “In these times, I just hate seeing adding – I think you told me today that’s approximately $230 thousand – that’s an expense that’s forevermore once you put that in the budget – it doesn’t go away. I would really like to see us wait until January and reassess if the sales tax do continue to trend up, we would be able to reassess it at that point” he added.

Pearce’s idea had no support with other council members, however.

Bruce Seigmund noted, “I, too, was initially reluctant with the 2%, but once I looked at the numbers, and also realized the pay cut that they took, I think it’s a good idea to go ahead and do it.”

Said Carolyn Cage, “These people have worked, and they have not complained. I think they deserve the 2%.

Both Fire Chief Chris Womack and Police Chief Steve Rogers supported the raise. Womack noted that he could only recall once in the last 30 years that the COLA wasn’t awarded.

Rogers said that when the crunch hit last spring, his department economized by eliminating overtime. “We all struggled to make that work,” he said.

When the vote came to recommend, it passed unanimously.

Notable in the document (pg 40) is the significant savings for FY 2019/2020 and FY 2020/2021 in the cost of energy purchased for the electric system.

For the fiscal year ending 9/30/20, the city paid about %3.25 million less than it had originally budgeted. For next year, the savings is expected to be about $3 million.

See here the complete document.

The budget will be considered for formal adoption at the September council meeting.


School Superintendent Hiring Procedure OK’d


A procedure and timeline for selecting the next Lincoln School District Superintendent was recommended for full board approval last Friday afternoon at a meeting of the Executive Search Committee.

Among the items discussed:

Application period – 9/3-9/28
Interviews – 10/19-10/26
Formal approval – 11/10
Proposed beginning salary – $120 thousand/year

See here the memo with proposed procedures.

Monroe attorney Jon Guice, who had recently been retained by the board to assist in the process, had several suggestions that were incorporated into the plan.

Said Guice, “You have to decide who want to interview. What if you have six applicants? You can say we’re going to interview three, we’re going to intervew all six – that’s purely a board decision.”

Asked what the board was legally required by state law, Guice said that the applicants had to be certified to be a superintendent, and that the position must be advertised. Beyond that, he said, the board could use any procedure it saw fit.

Superintendent Mike Milstead noted that the post office box to which the application should be mailed had been procured.

Applications must be postmarked no later than 9/28/20.

The full board will consider the recommendation at its 9/1/20 meeting.

Peking Restaurant can open “Immediately”


Ruston’s Peking Restaurant can open “immediately” for business after a stipulated judgement was agreed to this morning in Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District Court in Ruston, between the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) and the restaurant’s operators.

The agreement specifies some minor alterations to the “sneeze shield” at the buffet table, establishing a one-way traffic pattern around the table, and having restaurant staff fill the plates, instead of the diners.

See here the document.

The agreement was negotiated between LDH attorney Edward Brossettee and Ruston Attorney Aaron Lawrence, who represented the restaurant.

The restaurant, which has been in business for decades in the same location, was shut down last Friday after a temporary restraining order (TRO) was signed by Division C Judge Bruce Hampton. The order was sought by the LDH.

See here the TRO.

The order, which was issued “ex parte” (from one side), may have been in conflict with the exclusion section of the emergency powers act, under which authority Gov. Bel Edwards has been issuing his edicts.

In other words, the restaurant operators had no opportunity to be heard in court before the business was closed, and their ability to earn a living was damaged.

Specifically, the exclusion specifies that “…every person shall have an adequate remedy by due process of law and justice, administered without denial, partiality, or unreasonable delay, for injury to him in his person, property, reputation, or other rights.”

Restaurant Manager Allen Wang told Lincoln Parish News Online that they had not been issued any formal citation by the LDH prior to the restraining order being served last Friday.

It is expected that the restaurant may be open for business as early as this evening.

School Superintendent Hiring Process Begins


A join committee of several school board members and outgoing Lincoln School District Superintendent Mike Milstead will meet this afternoon (Friday, August 21) to begin the process of selecting a new superintendent. Board members include Lynda Henderson, Joe Mitcham, Otha Anders, and Danny Hancock.

The meeting will be at the STEM Center, 525 Tarbutton Road, 2:00 PM.

Here is the agenda.

School 1/2¢ Tax Begins October 1, 2020


A new 1/2¢ parishwide sales tax will be collected from purchases made after October 1, 2020, after the Lincoln Parish School Board this morning ratified last Saturday’s election, and enacted an ordinance to make it law.

See here the ordinance.

Superintendent Mike Milstead said that the new tax would enable the district “to do a little better” toward the employees’ pay, and should make Lincoln teachers among the top 1/3 best paid in the state.

Eight of the twelve board members were present, and all voted for the resolution and ordinance in the 10 minute meeting.

Ruston City Council Budget Review This Afternoon


Ruston’s Board of Aldermen will late this afternoon review the proposed FY 2020/2021 budget for the city.

The aldermen will meet as a committee of the whole as the Personnel/Finance Committee to review and make recommendations, and then forward the result back to the council for its approval at the September meeting

The meeting is at 5:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Personnel/Finance Committee Agenda
Board of Aldermen Agenda

Special Called School Board Meeting This Morning


Wasting no time to get its hands on taxpayer money, the Lincoln Parish School Board has called a special meeting for 10:00 AM this morning (Thursday, August 20) at the Lincoln Parish STEM Center, 525 Tarbutton Road.

On the agenda is a resolution declaring the results of last Saturday’s tax election, along with an ordinance that will authorize levying the tax.

See here the documents.

Local Restaurant has no Attorney to Defend Itself against Looming State Shutdown


A local restaurant recently cited for Covid-19 violations by the Louisiana Deparment of Health has no Attorney of Record to defend itself in an upcoming hearing in Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District Court this Friday. A Lincoln Parish Clerk of Court deputy told Lincoln Parish News Online this morning that the court pleadings on file show no attorney for Peking Restaurant, 1300 North Vienna.

Shreveport attorney Edward Brossette represents the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH).

Last week, the LDH obtained a temporary restraining order against the restaurant, citing violations of Governor Bel Edwards order against self-service buffets. The state is seeking a permanent injunction against the restaurant.

One provision of the Louisiana Homeland Security and Emergency Assistance and Disaster Act – the authority under which Edwards has enacted sweeping emergency orders since March – is this:

LA RS 29:736 Exclusion

D. Nothing in this Chapter shall be interpreted to diminish the rights guaranteed to all persons under the Declaration of Rights of the Louisiana Constitution or the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution. This Chapter shall not violate Article II (Distribution of Powers), Article III (Legislative Branch), or Article V (Judicial Branch) of the Louisiana Constitution. The courts shall be open, and every person shall have an adequate remedy by due process of law and justice, administered without denial, partiality, or unreasonable delay, for injury to him in his person, property, reputation, or other rights. The orders of all courts shall have their full force and effect. The legislature may call itself into session at any time and shall exercise its powers and duties. Its ability to enact law, appropriate funds, and confirm appointees shall be in full force. The privileges and immunities of legislators shall be respected.

Louisiana’s government-approved media never mention this key exclusion when citing Edwards’ emergency powers. Perhaps the restaurant owner should plead in court that the food buffet is a form of protest, a claim which seems to absolve rioters and looters of any criminal liability nationwide.

Presiding at the 9:00 AM Friday hearing will be Division C Judge Bruce Hampton.

Tax Election Results


Refresher on School Resource Officers


In December, 2018, there was a push by the Lincoln Parish School Board to increase property taxes to fund “school resource officers.” We did some research on the subject and posted the following report:

Someone’s Not Being Truthful about Lincoln Parish School Resource Officers

There are questions regarding the Lincoln Parish School Resource Officers (SRO) Program that need to be answered prior to any vote for additional taxes.

Specifically, taxpayers need to know which of the district’s schools now have an SRO assigned to them, and what agency has ownership of the program.

Here’s what’s posted on the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s website:

School Resource Officer

Deputies in the Juvenile Division are certified as an SRO. Deputies are assigned a school that they work at to provide security and safety for the students, faculty and staff. The SRO’s work during the school day as well as school sponsored events. The Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office currently has SRO’s assigned to all parish schools from Elementary to High School.

From Sheriff Mike Stone’s 4/8/15 re-election announcement:

“We’ve always been prudent and good stewards of the public’s money,” Stone said. “From putting School Resource Officers in our schools to adding an elderly protection officer and implementing the ‘How are You’ program to check on our seniors, we’ve been able to offer the services that help make Lincoln Parish a safe environment to live, work and raise families.”

In a 1/27/12 press release asking voters to approve a 1/4 cent sales tax increase, Stone said this:

“When we took office eight years ago, we promised several things,” Stone said. “More patrol and visibility on the street, adding an additional investigator, strengthening our drug interdiction (LPNET) and elderly protection (TRIAD) programs, putting an SRO officer in every school, improving litter abatement and animal control, and adding special patrol deputies (SCAT and CAP).”

“We feel we’ve delivered on our promises and have been good stewards of the public’s money, and we ask for your trust that we will continue to do so.”

It is clear that Stone has claimed ownership of the School Resource Officer program ever since he’s been in office. Nothing has ever been said by the Sheriff’s Office that indicates the school district should pay for the program.

But at last week’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish School Board, District Superintendent Mike Milstead said that only half the district’s schools had SROs assigned to them, and that the additional officers would have to be paid for by a new property tax.

Said Milstead, “One of the main components, and the original main thrust of this was for the safety of our children. Every one of our schools should have a School Resource Officer. Right now, thanks to the generosity of the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Department and a grant they have, seven of the schools have full-time School Resource Officers. But that means seven do not. We as a district need to everything we can to make it possible for our kids to have a safe learning environment.”

Clearly, Milstead is claiming that the primary need for new taxes is based on the safety of schoolchildren.

So which is it?

Do all Lincoln Parish Schools have SROs, or not? Or has Stone not fulfilled his promises to protect “all parish schools from Elementary to High School?”

And, if the cost of the SRO program must now be borne by the school district, when did that shift occur? Stone indicated in 2012 that part of the reason for a new tax was to help pay for the SRO program.

Or is the children safety issue being used to frighten taxpayers into supporting another tax increase, while most of the money goes elsewhere?