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Lumumba Proposes Sweeping Rate Hikes

Mayor Chokwe Lumumba on Monday presented a budget to City Council that represents a 43.3 percent increase in spending.

Mayor Chokwe Lumumba on Monday presented a budget to City Council that represents a 43.3 percent increase in spending. Trip Burns

Mayor Chokwe Lumumba has spent much of his first 50 days in office in preparation for the afternoon of Aug. 19 at City Hall, where he presented his proposed budget for fiscal year 2013 to the Jackson City Council.

After hearing his proposal, it's easy to see why.

The mayor put forth a $502.5 million budget proposal, which represents a 43.3 percent increase in spending over last year's budget of $350.8 million. He proposed funding much of that through rate increases on water and sewer services and the return of overfunding for Jackson Public Schools.

"This can has been kicked down the road for years," Lumumba said. "I don't see the point in kicking it any farther."

The "can" Lumumba referred to includes the city's aging sewer system, a consent decree from the Environmental Protection Agency that calls for the city to spend $400 million over the next 17 years, drainage issues and street repair needs that far outpace the budget allocated to fix them. Lumumba admits his budget won't solve all those problems, either, but the first-term mayor assured the council and audience of approximately 50 that his plan is "a step in that direction."

Under the mayor's proposal, nearly all of the city's departments would receive a budget increase. The Department of Administration's budget would increase by $1.2 million over this year; Human and Cultural Services would increase $1.9 million; Planning and Development would get an additional 
$1 million; and $2 million more would be set aside for general government. The big-ticket item is the Department of Public Works' budget, which Lumumba hopes to increase more than $22 million—to a whopping $398 million. Public Works is in charge of fixing what ails Jackson: its potholes, sewers and drainage.

The hard part, of course, is how to fund an expansion of that proportion. Under Lumumba's proposal, water rates will rise from an average monthly bill of $15.54 to around $21, and the average sewer bill will increase from $14.50 to more than $31. That should generate more than $30 million.

Jackson Public Schools, which has recently refinanced its bond debt, doesn't need its full millage this year, the mayor claims. The 5.53 mills extra millage not required for JPS' debt service can better be used elsewhere for the coming year, he argues.

"Let me be clear about that," Lumumba said. "I don't want people to go around saying I'm taking money from JPS. There's a legal limit (on funds they can request from the city for operations), and we're at it."

Lumumba said those combined funds, plus around $5 million in combined cuts to the fire, police and constituent services budgets, will balance the 2014 Jackson budget—even with the increase.

"We had to make some tough decisions in this budget," Lumumba said. "But I was elected to put the city of Jackson first, and not to make decisions that are politically popular."

Comments

justjess 7 years, 2 months ago

@Tyler Cleveland

"Under the Mayor's plan, nearly all of the city's departments would receive a budget increase. The Department of Administration's budget would increase by $1.2 million over this year. Human and Cultural Services would increase $1.9 million. Planning and Development would get an additional $1 million, and $2 million more would be set aside for general government. The big-ticket item is the Department of Public Works' budget, which Lumumba hopes to increase more than $22 million-to a whopping $398 million. Public Works is in charge of fixing what ails Jackson: its potholes, sewers and drainage."

So, the Mayor is increasing the city's budget while decreasing the citizens ability to meet their daily survival needs. The JFP published an article written by Dr. Rommel Benjamin, a retired Sociologist , entitled "Race Still Matters". This is a "must read" because his assessment and dept of understanding lends itself to the upcoming problems that this city will face.

The Mayor's proposal looks like a "wish list" presented by a child to Santa Clause! Detroit, MI had a similar beginning and the ending for Jackson is potentially the same - BANKRUPT!

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JLucas 7 years, 2 months ago

Tax increases and rate hikes are never fun and are generally unpopular. I commend the Mayor for making this gutsy, but ultimately necessary move.

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maliikomari 7 years, 2 months ago

I to wish to commend the Mayor for his trendsetting idea. Making the decision to transition the city of Jackson into a better Jackson may even require ever more unpopular decisions, but they to will be in the best interest of our beloved city. As fellow Jacksonians we realize that if we aspire to produce a Jackson we have never had before we must do things differently. Perhaps things we have never done in the past. #Progressive thinking!

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justjess 7 years, 2 months ago

@JLucas "Tax increases and rate hikes are never fun and are generally unpopular. I commend the Mayor for making this gutsy, but ultimately necessary move."

I understand a rate increase, but, a 100% increase on this service alone? Many people that I talk to were thinking that the increase will be 50%; however, if you do the math, it is 100%.

What happens next year when JPS needs the mills that will be spent "elsewhere", as reported by Mayor Lumumba? Jackson's middle class is shrinking and although unemployment is 8% here in the city, many of the jobs are minium wage. This "gutsy" move wil gut citizens to the core: this "ultimately necessary move" will move many more out of the city.

Then what???

Just Asking.

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kevin 7 years, 2 months ago

sounds like a good idea, I just don't see how it can be done.

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Knowledge06 7 years, 2 months ago

Increasing water rates will not 'gut' citizens to the core. Additionally it won't move people out of the City because all you would do is trade a lower water bill for a higher mortgage or rent payment. That may sound good to write but it's not 'sound' at all. Instead of instilling fear in people about the increase, how about helping them to budget to account for it. We often have to sacrifice for the things we want and in this case, all Jackson residents as well as the suburb cities that rely on Jackson's water/sewer system will have to sacrifice in order to help pay for the necessary improvements.

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Knowledge06 7 years, 2 months ago

(Excerpted from Louisiana Newspapers) - Jackson is about to do what other Cities are already doing!

FYI-BATON ROUGE:

"When drawn up 11 years ago, Baton Rouge’s sewer rehabilitation program had an estimated price tag of $618 million and was scheduled to be done by Dec. 31, 2014. Since then, the cost has more than doubled and the deadline for the work is being extended. The working price tag now for the rehabilitation is $1.455 billion, but the true cost to taxpayers is $2.9 billion once the $137 million for program management firm CH2M Hill and $1.3 billion in interest payments over 35 years for the bonds are factored in. Maintenance of the sewer system and debt service are paid for with a dedicated half-cent sales tax and with sewer fees. The average sewer user fee for a homeowner, based on monthly usage of 8,600 gallons of water, is $42.23 per month, or $507 a year. The fee, based on water consumption, increases 4 percent on Jan. 1 every year. The annual increases, which began in 2004, have no sunset."

FYI - SHREVEPORT "Earlier this week, the city council was introduced to the proposed consent decree, or contract, with the U.S. Department of Justice outlining work to be done by the city to get our sewer system in compliance. Right now, officials estimate we need $350 million dollars to fix all the problems we have. City officials say, a rate increase over the next 12 years is the only fix for our sewer crisis"

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justjess 7 years, 2 months ago

@Knowledge

".....Instead of instilling fear into people, how about helping them to budget to account for it."

Some of the people I'm speaking of are already cutting back on the medication they need to be able to purchase food. I didn't suggest that there would not be ANY increase; I simply stated that a 100% increase on this particular utility is drastic. Missing from this report was the exploration of other sources to generate revenue, i.e., sales tax, federal grants.

Sometimes that can that is being "kicked down the road" is impossible to stop with one "whopping" injection. I other words, this situation did not happen over night and for sure, it will not be fixed over night. Remedy will come over time.

Just remember that water and sewer aren't the only intities that are going up - , although it will get the largest increase according to the proposal. This proposal suggests over a one million dollar increase for Administration alone and with a 2million dollar set-aside.

There is an old saying that goes: "You can't get blood out of a turnip". I've tried it: It doesn't work.

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AnnGarrison 7 years, 2 months ago

If the funds generated by these rate hikes are spent to employ and train the people of Jackson in the building trades, instead of all going to contractors, as Chokwe Lumumba has promised, then the City will reap the rewards of upgrading its infrastructure in more ways than one.

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AnnGarrison 7 years, 2 months ago

Excuse me. . .I meant to say "instead of all going to OUTSIDE contractors." Of course the funds will go to contractors, as many to Jackson contractors as possible if Chokwe sticks to his campaign promise, as I'm sure he plans to. His other promise was that even if the city needs to hire contractors from outside, it will require them to employ and train the people of Jackson to rebuild Jackson.

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sarahmina 7 years, 1 month ago

I am so happy to see Jacksonians PUSH BACK against the naysayers. We have GOT to work together to make this city work for everyone who wants to live here. Obviously there're people who always highlight the known problems But NEVER offer a better solution. In that case, keep your opinions to yourself. There is NO way "ANYONE" can bring in more business, increase the middle class & help improve the school system overnight. Mayor Lumumba will make the decisions that ill lay the foundation that will lay the foundation for the city to succeed. Together we can accomplish this.

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justjess 7 years, 1 month ago

@sarahmina "I am so happy to see Jacksonians PUSH BACK against the naysayers. We have GOT to work together to make this city work for everyone who wants to live here. Obviously there're people who always highlight the known problems But NEVER offer a better solution. In that case, keep your opinions to yourself. There is NO way "ANYONE" can bring in more business, increase the middle class & help improve the school system overnight. Mayor Lumumba will make the decisions that ill lay the foundation that will lay the foundation for the city to succeed. Together we can accomplish this."

It is interesting that any comment made by the POOR is labeled "NAYSAYERS". This is so unfair! Why have Town Meetings if you are going to be angry about the comments that people make. For the most part, the people who are complaining are looking at their own budgets and to raise any utility, tax or any cost by 108% is WRONG. Many people are trying to adjust their budgets to buy medication to stay alive. They are not "NAYSAYERS" they are simply giving you facts and counting their own dollars.

The term this Administration is using "STOP KICKING THE CAN DOWN THE ROAD" is at best - political jargon. If people are going to be able to continue to live in Jackson, we will have to continue certain "PAYMENT PLANS". Citizens can not "CASH PAY" all of this city's debt. Think about it this way - You bought a car for $20,000 now you are being asked - three month later - to pay $41,000 which will increase your payments by 100 +%.

By the way, who are the Jacksonians that are pushing back against the "naysayers"/financially strapped?

Jackson will not survive a dictator or council people who will rubber stamp all of the extreme plans made so far by the city's leader. It is time to get serious and to STOP the name calling of people who love this city and do not want to see it headed down the road of destruction!

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JLucas 7 years, 1 month ago

The "rob Peter to pay Paul" approach may have kept a balanced budget, but it also kept Jackson from addressing it's infrastructure problem in a truly comprehensive way. It will be painful, but I think the mayor is making the right decisions.

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