Archive for the ‘City of Ruston’ Category

City of Ruston’s Debt Load Quadrupled From 2014 to 2017

09/20/2018

The City of Ruston’s monetary debt payment requirements have increased 4 1/2 times the amount from just three years ago, audit documents show. And yet more money has been borrowed since the date of the last audit.

As of the end of the 2016-2017 fiscal year, over $112 million of principal and interest is owed through 2036, the 9/30/17 audit shows.

See here pages 53 and 54 of the document.

Most of the debt was incurred in two bond issues in 2016 and 2017. About $74 million was borrowed.

At the end of the 2013-2014 fiscal year, total principal and interest owed was a bit over $25 million.

Most of that borrowing was for water and sewer projects.

See here pages 53 and 54 of the 9/30/14 audit.

At the 9/10/18 meeting of the Board of Aldermen, approval was granted to borrow another $6 million for repairs and maintenance on the city’s northside sewer treatment plant.

And, if the council approves, another $10 million or so will be borrowed for the proposed Senior/VA center and gymnasium complex in South Ruston.

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So Where’s the Rest of that Ruston Hotel/Restaurant/Theater Tax Money Going?

09/17/2018

One of the things learned at last Monday’s meeting of the Ruston City Council is that the proposed new sales/bed tax on local hotels, restaurants, and theaters is expected to collect about $1.75 million year from customers.

That money, Walker said, was to be used for construction of a senior/VA center, gymnasiums, and some sort of water park, to be built at the Sports Complex on South Farmerville. He also said bonds would be issued (a loan), and then paid back over time from the sales/bed tax income stream.

We can estimate costs from recent construction projects in the Lincoln Parish School District.

The Ruston High School Pep Squad building cost about a million dollars. So if Ruston builds three gymnasiums, triple that, to $3 million.

The Jimmy “Chick” Childress Field House cost about $3 million. A building of that size would be quite adequate for a senior/VA center.

For another three or four million, you should be able to build a first-class water park.

So that puts us up to around $10 million, not an insignificant amount of money. If that money is borrowed, we need to see what the payments will be.

Last year, the city borrowed $34 million at 3% for 17 years. We find those figures on page 52 of the city’s 9/30/17 audit.

We probably should assume the interest rate is a bit more than last year, so we’ll calculate $10 million at 3 1/2% for 17 years.

The annual amount that must be repaid is about $780 thousand/year.

See here the calculations.

That’s less than half the money that the proposed tax will collect. Where will the other million dollars/year go?

New Ruston Taxes to Collect $1.75 Million/Yr

09/11/2018

The new sales and bed taxes on Ruston restaurants, movie theaters, and hotels is expected to take up to $1.75 million per year from customers, it was said at last night’s meeting of the Ruston City Council. That money will be used for “economic development projects,” Mayor Ronny Walker said.

Said Walker, “We’re trying to replace the one gymnasium we have in our city… that’s the Bobby James Gym… so we’re trying to replace it with three new gyms in one complex at the RPAR Complex on 167 South. We also want to add a Senior Center… for our senior adults. The VFW building is literally collapsing… we would like the Senior Citizens Center and a VFW home.”

He added that two years ago, the public swimming pool was closed because it would have cost $2 million to repair. To replace the pool, some type of water park would be built if the tax passes, Walker said.

The council voted unanimously to authorize publication of a notice to proceed with the plan. A public hearing and final vote will be held at the November meeting, according to the documents.

In response to our question, Walker said that bonds would be issued to fund the projects, and paid off from the sales tax revenues.

At the Monday, 10/1 meeting of the council, a public hearing will be held to hear any objection to creation of the tax district. Approximately 110 businesses will be in the district and will be subject to the new tax.

In other business, the council gave final approval to the budget for fiscal year 10/1/18 – 9/30/19. The budget includes the pay raises for the mayor and council.

The council voted unanimously for the budget.

Ruston Restaurants, Theaters Included in Sales Tax Hike

09/09/2018

Over a hundred Ruston restaurants will be included in the proposed “bed tax” ordinance that will be introduced at tomorrow night’s meeting of the Ruston City Council. Also, Celebrity Theaters is on the list.

Rather than a “bed tax,” the establishments will levy an additional 1.75% sales tax, the proceeds of which are to be dedicated to economic development.

See here the list.

See here a map of the locations.

The meeting is set for Monday, 9/10/18, 5:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

New Hotel Bed Tax on Ruston Council Agenda

09/07/2018

Mayor Ronny Walker has proposed creating an economic development district within Ruston’s city limits, and then levy therein a 1.75% hotel occupancy tax, along with a 1.75% sales and use tax. These taxes will be in addition to any existing taxes now levied.

Tax monies collected from the levy will be placed in a trust fund, and then used for economic development projects, according to the proposed resolution and accompanying ordinance.

No property description or maps are included in the documents, so it is unclear where the tax district will be located.

The proposals are included on the agenda for next Monday’s (9/10/18) regular meeting of the Ruston City Council, 5:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

See here the agenda.

See here the resolution and ordinance.

Mays Murder Trial Reset for Next February

08/29/2018

The trial of accused murderer Cameron Mays was reset for Monday, February 25, 2019 to allow a new defense attorney to familiarize himself with the case. The joint defense/prosecution motion was approved in Third Judicial District (Lincoln, Union Parishes) Court in Ruston yesterday morning.

Indigent Defender Dwyane Burrell will be defending, alongside Kia Richardson.

Mays is charged with a June, 2012 crime spree that resulted in the death of retired Grambling State University Professor Dr. Sue Hashway, and the aggravated rape and kidnapping of a Louisiana Tech University co-ed.

Mays was convicted in April, 2016 of kidnapping, aggravated rape, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Mays was not in court. Appearing for the prosecution was Assistant Attorney General Madeleine Slaughter-Young.

Presiding was Division B Judge Tommy Rogers.

City of Ruston Budget Details

08/27/2018

We’ve gotten a copy of the just released FY 2018-2019 Budget for the City of Ruston.

At the August 20, 2018 meeting of the City Council, it was said that the city’s payroll cost would increase by over $800 thousand. We decided to see what departments fared best.

The general fund recap shows that the top five general fund departments to receive a budget increase (on a percentage basis) from this year (FY 2017-2018) to next (FY 2018-2019) are:

Military Museum – 40.9%
Planning, Zoning & Inspections – 22.6%
Fire – 18.9%
Animal Control – 13.8%
Police – 11.9%

See here the recap spreadsheet.

Since the military museum and animal control have much smaller budgets relative to the others, we’ll focus on the top three in actual monetary amounts, specific to the total payroll increases.

Planning, Zoning & Inspections is projected to have a total 2017-18 personnel cost of $478,425. For next year, that figure increases to $659,417.

See here the budget worksheet.

The Fire Department personnel budget for this year is expected to come in at $3,418,457, while next year’s cost is set at $4,148,416.

Here’s the document.

The Ruston Police Department personnel services cost increases from $3,642,274 to $3,989,071.

Here’s the budget spreadsheet.

Among the enterprise funds (electric, water, sewer, telecom, airport, ambulance), the electric system’s personnel costs increased from $1,860,797 to $2,174,859.

Here’s the worksheet.

And here’s the complete budget document.

These increases total up to much more than $800 thousand. Likely that is so because we included the cost of the retirement and insurance benefits. It appears that those costs add as much as 50 to 60 percent additional to the base pay.

What About the Rough Edge Service Road?

08/26/2018

Several of our readers have asked about the North Service Road extension project from Tractor Supply eastward to Rough Edge Road – about 1.6 miles of roadway. The questions have arisen because there has been no construction activity for the past few months.

The project was approved at the January 9, 2017 meeting of the Ruston Board of Aldermen, and was awarded to Womack & Sons Construction Group of Harrisonburg, LA, at a price of $7.2 million.

The project was scheduled for completion within 920 calendar days, or about 30.5 months.

Assuming the contract was signed by the middle of January, 2017, that would put the completion date somewhere around the end of July, 2019, less than a year away.

Reportedly, Womack’s equipment and personnel that were working on the service road project have been diverted to the new sports complex project on South Farmerville Street. Womack was awarded that project at the September 11, 2017 council meeting.

That project has a completion date of 425 working days.

What Next on Monster Moto?

08/21/2018

It appears that Monster Moto, a Ruston, LA based manufacturer of mini-bikes and go carts, will close its Ruston operation completely, and leave empty a 100 thousand ft/sq building that Ruston taxpayers co-signed for.

Amid much fanfare, the building was dedicated by Louisiana Governor Bel Edwards 18 months ago, in March, 2017.

The company began assembling the bikes with a small workforce, with plans to increase production as sales increased.

Those sales never materialized, apparently.

In May of this year, the company ceased assembly operation at the Ruston facility and laid off 30 employees. The Ruston facility was deemed to be a warehouse for parts.

Assembly was outsourced to China, where it had been located prior to the Ruston move.

The story began in late spring of 2015, when Ruston aldermen were presented with a proposal to guarantee the rent on a new building for the company.

At the June 1, 2015 meeting, the council swallowed the deal, cork and all.

The important part is this: $34 thousand/month for 25 years. Presumably, Monster Moto paid some rent since they moved in. So call it $34 thousand/month for 23 1/2 years.

At least Alderman Jim Pearce asked some questions.

At the August, 2015 meeting, some minor wording changes were made to the agreements, which were resubmitted to the council for final approval.

And that’s the history of how the deal developed.

Ruston Mayor’s Pay Bumped $20K, Council $2.4K

08/20/2018

Come January 1, Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker will receive a hefty $20 thousand/year pay hike, from $80 thousand to $100 thousand. The Board of Aldermen will be bumped $200/month, from $800 to $1,000 ($9,600/yr to $12,000/yr).

The raises are a result of a vote taken by the board’s Finance Committee, consisting of all five aldermen, and are included in the Fiscal Year 2018-2019 budget that discussed at tonight’s meeting. The budget will be voted on at the next regular council meeting in September, during which a public hearing will be held.

Voting for the budget that included the raises were:

Carolyn CageWard 1
Angela MayfieldWard 2
Jedd LewisWard 3
Bruce SiegmundWard 5

Jim Pierce (Ward 4) voted no. He had earlier moved to delete the raises for the council, but that motion died for lack of a second.

Pierce said he didn’t feel comfortable voting to raise his own pay, and said that the action should have been taken before the recent qualifying period for the council and mayor.

All aldermen and Mayor Walker were re-elected without opposition.

City Treasurer Laura Hartt said the new budget provided about $823 thousand in increased employee pay citywide. The total payroll increased to 307 from 290 last year.

The council also levied the taxes on property for the tax year 2018. General alimony was set at 5.24 mils, and the recreation tax at 2.92 mils.

Both are the same rate as last year.