Archive for the ‘City of Ruston’ Category

Mayor, Council may have Violated Open Meeting Law


Action taken at last night’s meeting of the Ruston City Council appears to have violated Louisiana’s Open Meeting Law, LA RS 42:11, et seq.

Specifically, a matter as listed on the published and council-approved agenda was not considered, and action was taken to amend a proposed ordinance without properly amending the meeting agenda.

No such amendment action was listed on the approved agenda. The agenda had earlier been unanimously approved by the council, upon a motion by Carolyn Cage, and a second by Jim Pierce.

Section II, Item D of the approved agenda was listed thus:

Consider Ordinance No. _____ of 2018, Levying an Additional Sales Tax of One and Seventy-Five Hundredths Percent (1.75%) in Economic Development District No. 1 of the City of Ruston, State of Louisiana (The “District”)…

However, when it was time for the item to be considered, Mayor Ronny Walker, who chairs the meeting, said it would not be voted upon. He claimed that an ordinance amending the boundaries of the district was being introduced, and that the tax itself couldn’t be voted upon until those boundaries were set.

Said Walker, “Although the ordinance will not be acted on tonight, we will have a public hearing as previously announced, in which any person desiring to make a public comment on the ordinance levying the tax may do so tonight.”

That appears to conflict with this provision of the Open Meetings Law:

LA RS 42§19. Notice of meetings

A.(1)(b)(i) All public bodies, except the legislature and its committees and subcommittees, shall give written public notice of any regular, special, or rescheduled meeting no later than twenty-four hours, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays, before the meeting.

(ii)(aa) Such notice shall include the agenda, date, time, and place of the meeting. The agenda shall not be changed less than twenty-four hours, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays, prior to the scheduled time of the meeting.

Next, the mayor proceeded to seek an amendment to the tax ordinance that would limit the tax to a maximum of ten years. No such action was contemplated on the approved agenda.

The motion was made by Angela Mayfield, and seconded by Jedd Lewis. It passed unanimously.

In response to questions, City Attorney Bill Carter said that was the only amendment under consideration.

Here again, there appears to be a conflict with the law:

(cc) Upon unanimous approval of the members present at a meeting of a public body, the public body may take up a matter not on the agenda. Any such matter shall be identified in the motion to take up the matter not on the agenda with reasonable specificity, including the purpose for the addition to the agenda, and entered into the minutes of the meeting. Prior to any vote on the motion to take up a matter not on the agenda by the public body, there shall be an opportunity for public comment on any such motion in accordance with R.S. 42:14 or 15. The public body shall not use its authority to take up a matter not on the agenda as a subterfuge to defeat the purposes of this Chapter.

During the public hearing, several citizens opposed to the tax commented. There were no comments in support of the tax.

James Fuller, who last month wrote a letter to the council members, and which was subsequently published as a letter to the editor, commented opposing the tax. He noted that questions brought up in his letter had not been answered.

Also heard from was Lou Taylor, who said, “We need to complete Phase I. We need to get additional information regarding the sports districts, etc. from other cities that have them. I just think we are overextending ourselves until we finish phase one.”

Chris Garriga, a local restaurant owner, said he felt that the tax should be limited to 5 years instead of ten.

Mary Halbrook said she had contacted her council member to oppose the tax.

“I feel that if we’re having all these people that are coming to town – coming to the sports complex – these thousands of people that are coming to town eating in restaurants – just the sheer number of people coming will increase the tax revenue, and you’ll have that money to fund Phase II,” she said.

She added that the tax should be levied on hotels only and not restaurants.

As we had noted upthread, an amendment to the tax district boundaries was introduced.

Walker said the amendments added food trucks and crawfish trailers to the list, and removed some closed restaurants.

One notable deletion was Ruston Theaters, LLC.

See here the original ordinance as adopted on 10/1/18.

See here the amendments.

Walker also announced a special called meeting for Thursday, November 29, at 5:00 PM. He said a final voted on the tax ordinance would be held then.

About 15 minutes into the meeting, a tornado warning caused the meeting to be interrupted for about 30 minutes. Everyone was evacuated into adjacent offices during that time.


Letter to the Editor


November 4, 2018

Ms. Carolyn Cage-Ward 1, Ruston, Louisiana Sent by: E-Mail
Ms. Angela Mayfield-Ward 2, Ruston, Louisiana
Mr. Jedd Lewis-Ward 3, Ruston, Louisiana
Mr. Jim Pearce-Ward 4, Ruston, Louisiana
Mr. Bruce Siegmund-Ward 5, Ruston, Louisiana

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am OPPOSED to the SALES TAX ORDINANCE proposal to be voted on by the Ruston City Council at the November 5th regular meeting.

I first wrote to each of you on October 8, 2018 about the proposed 1.75 % sales tax ordinance. I have contacted each of you in person or by phone, at least once, to discuss this issue. I sincerely thank each of you for the time and courtesy each of you has shown me.

I hope the reasons for my opposition to the ordinance was adequately conveyed in the October 8th letter. I tried to be as succinct as possible with my reasons, without resorting to bullying or threats, (as some have done and suggested), regarding this matter. My interest from the beginning of this dialog has been my involvement in the public discourse and a genuine effort to do what “is right” for the City of Ruston and its citizens.

As of this time, answers to the many questions that were brought out in the letter have not been addressed and certainly no adequate answers given. I think the citizens of Ruston deserve more than just salesmanship and hyperbole, with no foundation in fact, before they are expected (or in the instance of this ordinance, COMMITTED) to paying more taxes. A public body not answering legitimate questions and concerns and blindly committing to significant financial obligations is “not right”. Trust me, these concerns are not just mine only. I have received many calls and encouragement from citizens and others for the questions and concerns expressed in my letter.

Again, I hope each of you will consider the concerns I have expressed and vote to defeat the proposed ordinance and submit the questions for further study and review.

If when you get this message, you would care to talk with me, I can be reached at (318) 255-7878 or (318) 265-7878. I look forward to visiting with you on this and other issues that affect our city.

I will see you at the November 5th meeting.


James Fuller

Copy furnished to:
Ruston Daily Leader(Cody Richard)
Lincoln Parish News Online(Walter Abbott)

P.S. Yes, I have seen the front page story in the Ruston Daily Leader and that is more of the salesmanship and hyperbole mentioned above. No comments for the taxpayers or citizens of Ruston, seems somewhat of a one sided (except for comments of Pearce and Siegmund) story.

Ruston City Council Monday


Ruston’s Board of Aldermen will meet Monday, November 5, 5:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here’s the agenda.

On the agenda as distributed to council members, media, and other citizens is consideration of the ordinance that would levy a 1.75% tax on restaurants, motels, and theaters.

A public hearing is also listed on that agenda. Members of the public may comment on the proposed ordinance during that time.

Ms. Carolyn Cage – Ward 1, Ruston, Louisiana; 243-2492
Ms. Angela Mayfield – Ward 2, Ruston, Louisiana; 243-0998
Mr. Jedd Lewis – Ward 3, Ruston, Louisiana; 548-1036
Mr. Jim Pearce – Ward 4, Ruston, Louisiana; 548-9422
Mr. Bruce Siegmund – Ward 5, Ruston, Louisiana; 614-4352

Audit: Town of Sterlington Broke


Audit suggests Sterlington in dire financial straits

By Zach Parker |

The town of Sterlington engaged in deficit spending for eight months in 2017 and may be unable to continue operations in the next year, according to a recent audit.

Bosch & Statham, a certified public accounting firm in Ruston, prepared the audit of Sterlington’s finances for the fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2017.

The audit’s report on Sterlington’s finances was bleak. According to the audit report, Sterlington has incurred millions of dollars in bonded indebtedness, may be unable to pay back that debt, continues to incur major legal expenses, has overspent its budgets for several months, has not realized large sales tax receipts as anticipated, and has a negative balance of some $157,000 available for spending.

During 2017, Sterlington’s debt increased by $7,710,000, including $4 million in sales tax revenue bonds to finance the sports complex and $4 million in utility revenue bonds to finance water and sewer projects.

The sports complex also has caused financial troubles for Sterlington, according to auditors.

“The Town hasn’t seen the increase in sales tax revenues that was expected which could lead to future problems paying the debt it incurred to do the construction,” stated the audit report.

See here the complete report.

Letter to the Editor


The following is a letter emailed to Ruston’s Board of Alderman dated Oct. 8 that was requested to also be published as a Letter to the Editor.

Ms. Carolyn Cage – Ward 1, Ruston, Louisiana; 243-2492
Ms. Angela Mayfield – Ward 2, Ruston, Louisiana; 243-0998
Mr. Jedd Lewis – Ward 3, Ruston, Louisiana; 548-1036
Mr. Jim Pearce – Ward 4, Ruston, Louisiana; 548-9422
Mr. Bruce Siegmund – Ward 5, Ruston, Louisiana; 614-4352

I am OPPOSED to the SALES TAX ORDINANCE proposal to be voted on by the Ruston City Council at the Nov. 5 regular meeting.

I attended local primary and secondary schools, and have an accounting degree from LA Tech. I was born in Ruston, and here is where I chose to live, work and raise my family. I vote at Hillcrest School and Jedd Lewis is my elected alderman. I have tried to personally contact all five aldermen or alderwomen to discuss this issue. I thank each of you for the time and courtesy each of you has shown me. If we’ve not talked yet, hopefully, we will before the November meeting.

I am OPPOSED to the Sales Tax Ordinance for the following reasons:

1. As a matter of personal belief, I think the voting citizens of the tax district should vote on taxes for this, or any other taxes that would be used as funding for the city’s recreational infrastructure. I don’t think that the citizens should be taxed without an opportunity to vote on the projected use. The taxpayers did not elect the aldermen to impose these taxes. The taxpayers may desire to wait on the recreational development or not desire to proceed at all; nevertheless, the taxpayers deserve a vote, rather than having this tax and projects being forced down their throats.

2. I believe that a full accounting should be given to the citizens of Ruston on the construction progress and expended / committed cost for the MRF projects. I and most other citizens are aware that most of the projects in the MRF have had serious overruns; in particular, the recreational projects now under construction. How much of the 3/4 cent sales tax funding, savings in maintenance and revenue synergies has been committed? Many citizens have concerns that the budget for MRF has been exceeded and additional funding sources are needed to save face.

3. The tax is being implemented as a sales tax increment financing under RS 33:9038.31 et seq. That law was enacted for funding of economic (industrial) development projects. The funds from this tax are proposed — according to the mayor at the recent town hall meeting — for recreational infrastructure rather than economic or industrial development projects. This is a legal high jacking of a law intended for funding economic development projects, and a means to bypass the requirement for a tax referendum by the voters. In my opinion, implementing the sales tax and the proposed additions to the recreational complex by this method is wrong.

4. The recreational projects to be financed by this proposed tax are designated as Phase II of the Sports Complex, yet Phase I has not been completed at this time. With solid budget control and sound estimating, perhaps some of the projected Phase II financial needs could be met from savings on Phase I construction. This would negate the need for imposition of the sales tax. Construction estimates for the projects based on “guesstimates” (mayor’s term) don’t meet the standards of best business practices. It is reckless, and shows disrespect for taxpayer money.

5. If, the recreational complex will be such a success (as the mayor has said), we will not need this additional tax revenue for Phase II of the recreational complex.

6. The proposed Phase II projects (senior center, veterans facility, splash pad and pool) are projects that are mutually exclusive and none of them are required for the successful completion and operation of the Phase I facilities. In other words, each of the Phase II features could be delayed and paid out of the income generated from the Phase I features.

7. The added maintenance and operational cost of the project features need to be reasonably forecast. Little mention was made regarding this item at the Old Fire Station meeting. How is this to be paid for? Both Phase I and Phase II of the complex will add serious maintenance and operational cost items to the budget.

8. Our mayor is an excellent salesman for the city, as evidenced by the Town Hall Meeting at the Old Fire Station recently, and the support he has generated for his projects. BUT, I ask that each of you stop and consider some serious questions about the financial wellbeing of our city without any influence from the administration. I submit to you the following:

a. The budget expenses have increased during the first four years of the Walker administration by about ten (10) percent. The 2014 budget of $66 million — the last year of the Hollingsworth administration — increased to about $77 million in 2018, the most recent year of the Walker administration.

b. The bonded indebtedness has increased during the first four years of the Walker administration by over 400 percent. The total principal and interest owed increased from $25 million in 2014 to about $112 million in 2018, the most recent year of the Walker administration.

c. The contingent liability for the Monster Moto Facility will soon (Jan. 1, 2019) be the responsibility of the City of Ruston as they are the guarantors of the bonds for the facilities. Granted the mayor recently has said to me, “…we have two possible companies to take their place and beside they will not be out until the end of the year.” The citizens are concerned, are you? The aldermen are responsible for the budget and its financial soundness and should be good stewards of the financial condition of this city.

d. Finally, cash flows from funding and revenue sources are not aligned or synchronized with the expense requirements for the MRF projects. The 3/4 cent sales tax allowed for approximately $40 million dollars in bonds to be issued, and an annual $1.2 million per year above the requirement for bond amortization. It is easy to see if you underestimate costs (sports complex), the needed fund will not be available for completion of all of the other MRF projects. This shortfall in available funds, demands the need for other revenue source such as a new tax (1.75 percent sales tax for Phase II), or a significant reduction in cash reserves from other accounts, either enterprise or general fund. We need adequate planning, accurate cost estimates, bidding discipline, and firm project management.

I hope each of you will consider the above items that I have highlighted and consider voting to defeat the proposed ordinance and submit the questions for further study and review.

I will see you at the Nov. 5 meeting.

James Fuller

Sparta Commission Hears Reports


Last Wednesday’s meeting of the Sparta Groundwater Commission failed to garner a quorum for an official meeting, but nevertheless heard a series of reports and comments from the members.

Chairman Zack Spivey talked about the opportunity for water savings by the area’s water systems though proper maintenance of those systems to curtail leaks. He said that first the systems must measure the water they pump, and then compare that to what they sell.

Said Spivey, “I’m going to call that low hanging fruit. We should have some influence to encourage the rural water districts and the cities to know whether their numbers are good or not.”

Historically, the commission’s public relations efforts have focused on individual users, and encouraged conservation by fixing leaky faucets and minimal lawn watering.

Executive Director Lindsey Gouedy reported on the commission’s budget, and said that they were on target for the year.

Also, a former commission member, Richard Durrett was welcomed back. He was appointed by the Lincoln Parish Police Jury last week.

Ruston Aldermen Medical Insurance Benefits Detailed


In addition to the $1 thousand/month salary (recently bumped from $800/month), all but one of Ruston’s Aldermen receive a very lucrative medical insurance benefit by way of the city’s group insurance plan.

A letter in response to a public records request show the following medical insurance benefits paid for by Ruston’s taxpayers.

Carolyn CageWard 1: $9,599.52/yr
Angela MayfieldWard 2: $8,035.98/yr
Jedd LewisWard 3: $5,477.88/yr
Jim PierceWard 4: $9,599.52/yr

Bruce SiegmundWard 5 is not enrolled in the city’s group insurance plan.

These amounts represent either 70% of the plan premiums (high deductible plan), or 85% (preferred provider plan).

The Lincoln Parish School Board has five of its twelve members who are on the district’s group plan. Of those five, two are retired teachers. All of the five are “grandfathered” and will drop off the plan whenever they leave office.

No members of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury are enrolled in that entity’s group plan.

Tax District Ordinance Passes Ruston City Council – Barely


On a three to two vote, with Alderwoman Angela Mayfield pausing for a moment before voting, an ordinance creating a new sales tax district won approval at last night’s Ruston City Council meeting. With this action, Mayor Ronny Walker’s latest tax scheme advances to the November 5 meeting, where the ordinance actually levying the tax will be voted upon.

Here’s how they voted:

Carolyn CageWard 1: Yes
Angela MayfieldWard 2: Yes
Jedd LewisWard 3: Yes
Jim PierceWard 4: No
Bruce SiegmundWard 5: No

The motion to adopt the ordinance was made by Lews, and seconded by Cage.

There was quite a bit of discussion before the vote, especially from Pierce and Siegmund.

Said Pierce, “I have probably gotten – and I wish I had marked down the number – Ronny asked me the number the other day – of calls I’ve had about this. Probably more than any other issue that I’ve ever had in the twenty years I’ve been on here. I’m going to say 99 percent were opposed to doing this.”

He continued, “I am all in favor of the gymnasiums, the community center, the VFW building, the water feature – I think those would be great assets to our city. But, I think they ought to be put on a wish list, instead of another tax to pay for this.”

“I do not like a sales tax that the people don’t vote on. I’ve had that repeated to me many times,” Pierce added.

He concluded, “I think we ought to wait, and pay cash for them, and know exactly what they’re going to cost when we do it. The sports complex – we thought it was going to cost one amount, and it ended up costing more.”

Siegmund had similar comments: “I am not comfortable moving forward like this. I think people should have the ability to vote for their own tax. Based upon the number of people I’ve talked to, they have some apprehension about it too. To them, it feels rushed. I would rather see us finish what we’ve started – let people see the results of what we’ve built – and then revisit this and let’s see if we can’t find another way. And perhaps even bring it to the people for a vote to approve. I’m in favor for the second phase, but not like this.”

Mayfield said she was on the fence on the issue.

“I received several calls from people in my district. My concern was we were doing enough. We were taxed – let’s wait and see how this turns out, and then maybe come back,” she said.

“Then I spoke to several of the restaurant owners, and they came out to the meetings, and they didn’t seem to have a problem with it.”

“I will say that I know we’re just establishing the district, but I don’t want us to come up with whatever, and we have to continue to bring another tax, another tax, another tax. That’s the fear – people that did call and say no, we’re saying that they started out with one amount, and they came back with another amount.”

For his part, Walker repeated his remarks from last week, saying the need for the facility was great.

Ruston City Council to Vote Monday on Creation of Tax District


Ruston’s City Council can Monday kill, or keep alive, Mayor Ronny Walker’s proposed 1.75 cent sales tax on hotels, restaurants, and theaters.

An ordinance creating the tax district is up for a vote. A yea vote will advance the plan, a nay vote will stop it.

Consider Ordinance No. ________ of 2018, Creating the “Economic Development District No. 1 of the City of Ruston, State of Louisiana;” Defining the Boundaries Thereof From Which Area Local Sales Tax Increments will be Determined and Used to Finance Economic Development Projects in Accordance with and as Authorized by Part II of Chapter 27 of Title 33 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes of 1950, as Amended; and Providing for Other Matters in Connection with the Foregoing

Also on the agenda is a public hearing on the companion ordinance, which would actually levy the tax.

Public Hearing Regarding Ordinance No. ________ of 2018, Creating the “Economic Development District No. 1 of the City of Ruston, State of Louisiana;” Defining the Boundaries Thereof From Which Area Local Sales Tax Increments will be Determined and Used to Finance Economic Development Projects in Accordance with and as Authorized by Part II of Chapter 27 of Title 33 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes of 1950, as Amended; and Providing for Other Matters in Connection with the Foregoing

If citizens of Ruston want to speak up, the meeting is set for 5:30 PM, Monday, October 1, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here’s the agenda.

Walker Details “Phase II” of Sports Complex @ Town Hall Mtg


At a town hall meeting at the Old Ruston Fire Station, Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker yesterday afternoon detailed the second phase of the multisport complex now under construction in south Ruston. This phase is to be funded by a 1 3/4 cent sales tax on Ruston hotels, restaurants, and movie theaters.

The three basketball courts, combination VFW/Senior Center (about 3,000 sq ft), and water park will be located adjacent to the complex administration building, which was formerly the Campus Community Assembly of God church, said Walker. That building is now utilized by contractor Womack & Sons as their construction office.

“We expect it will be $11 to $12 million, but we’re not sure,” Walker said of the total cost.

He also said that he expected the addition will be paid off in seven years.

Walker touted the economic impact of the complex, saying it would dramatically increase hotel occupancy and restaurant business, with a corresponding increase in sales tax collections.

“The restaurants will go from $6.5 million a month in total sales, to $1.66 million additional to that. They (the hotels) will face a $1.22 million increase. A hundred percent increase,” Walker said. “Seventy five percent of the tax will be paid by those who come from out of town,” he added.

Walker also introduced the new director of the complex, Tamishia Motes.

One question from the audience was why was this tax not be voted on by the citizens, while the Moving Ruston Forward tax was.

“Anytime you do a tax, just like the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) we did for the shopping center, that was in an area where there were no residences. So hotels and restaurants are not residences. If there were residences, houses built around it, you would have to. If not, you don’t have to. It’s a city council vote,” Walker said.

Another question was why the the complex under construction cost so much more than originally estimated.

“The number we used was $20 (million). What I’ve found in four years is everything in government costs more. Yes, it’s costing more, but yes it’ll bring in tons more revenue,” Walker claimed.

The questioner persisted, “Why do we need another $1.75 per hundred. Surely we’ll have enough money coming in to pay for another $10 million.”

“Because there’s no money in the Moving Ruston Forward issue for that, we’re spending it on other projects. This is phase 2, which was not in the Moving Ruston Forward project,” Walker said.

Another questioner suggested that since other cities were building sports complexes, wouldn’t that present competition to the Ruston complex.

Walker: “There’s always that chance. We think because of the quality of what we’re going to have, we’ll get a lot of them.”

One question asked Walker did they ever consider putting the issue up for a citizen vote.

Walker said, “We did consider it, but state law says we don’t have to, so we didn’t.”