To put it bluntly the financial picture for the Town of Jonesboro is bleak. Expenses has exceeded revenues by huge sums monthly causing serious problems. According to Mayor Leslie Thompson this can’t continue, or the town will be in serious trouble with the state Legislative Auditors division, once again.
Thompson relayed this information during the Mayor’s Update portion of the agenda to Aldermen Devin Flowers, Robbie Siadek and Nia Evans-Johnson during the regular monthly meeting of the town council on Tuesday, March 8th. James Ginn and Pete Stringer were not present.
“As most of you know the Town of Jonesboro has been having troubles financially,” Thompson said to those in attendance. “Two months ago we started looking at where we could make adjustments to help ease this situation. It has come to the point now that we have to come together and fix this now. What we thought could happen is now staring us in the face.”
The situation was brought to the forefront recently through a letter received from Louisiana Legislative Auditor Michael Waguespack. IIn summary the correspondence indicated that the Legislative Office had agreed to remove Jonesboro from the non-compliance list a few years back but due to several current issues the town is facing being reinstated.
Itemized details show that the Legislative Auditor removed the town from the non-compliance list in 2020 in consideration of the public safety, health and welfare of residents. At that time the town’s utility system was out of compliance with Louisiana Dept. of Health (LDH), Louisiana Dept. of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) and Environmental Protection Agency regulations. In order to receive needed grant funding to make corrective actions, the town had to be shown in good standing with the Legislative Auditor. The letter further stated that it now appears that several of the stated corrective actions that were planned have still not been implemented.
Another issue the Auditor has is the letter received from Kenneth Folden, CPA stating that he was terminating all accounting services for the town as of January 31, 2022. A final issue was that Jonesboro was having cash flow problems in both the General Fund and Utility Fund and has become delinquent in paying vendors and that no specific remedies had been provided.
It was recommended that in order for the town to remain off the non-compliance list that the town continue to work with Folden & Co. or have another independent accountant to report the use of grant funding and progress related to the corrective action plan submitted.
Another recommendation was that the spending deficits be immediately eliminated and present strategies necessary to address delinquent accounts and payable balance and to become current with all vendors.
In response, Mayor Thompson drafted a letter to the state Legislative Auditor’s Office stating that the following plan would be submitted to the Board of Aldermen at the March 8th meeting.
- Convert all employee compensation for overtime hours to compensatory time. Estimated savings per month would be approximately $10,100.00 per month.
- Incorporate a garbage tipping fee to offset the costs passed to the town from the parish who now charges the town. Estimated to increase revenues by approximately $,000.00 per month.
- Hiring of an internal auditor who job it is to pay bills and process payroll. Estimated to save town approximately $2,000.00 – $3,000.00 per month.
- Cuts in weekly purchases of gasoline. Estimated savings of approximately $2,000.00 – $4,000.00 per month (subject to change due to recent gas price hike)
- Consolidation of Public Works Department. Every employee will be called upon to assist in any area needed as determined by the Public Works Director. Estimated savings to be approximately $25,000.00 per month.
- Sewer rates raised by $3.00 per month in August of 2020. This action increased utility intake by approximately $4,542.00 per month.
- Cut back on contract labor. Estimated saving would be $3,000.00 – $5,000.00 per month.
The meeting began with the opportunity for the public to make comments. John Newman, who lives at 210 McDonald Street, made a request to have the situation involving the lift pump station there be resolved to which Mayor Thompson replied that it was his understanding that it had been taken care of. Ronald Harper of 1109 South Hudson then made an appeal to have someone speak to his neighbors about the trash in their yard that keeps blowing into his. Compliance Officer Brandon Brown replied that he would immediately speak to them about this.
A proposed contract offer for telephone services by Converged Telephony Networks was tabled so that the Board could gain more information about specifics of the five year proposal. In final action the Council agreed to the Police Department’s recommendation to hire Eric Davis and Jeremy Garrett to replace Rob’Bresheen Goree and Harry Woolridge who resigned to take positions with other companies.
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