I went to Tuesday morning’s called city council meeting out of curiosity. I had instant deja vu.
The biggest deja vu moments came while accountant Tammy Dyal was giving her report on the dire financial condition of the city. It was the same song, different verse I had heard a year ago as a council member.
Her repeated pleas in the past for the City’s spending frenzies to be brought under control have gotten nowhere.
In a column I wrote last December, a week before ending my eight years of serving as a member of the Hazlehurst City Council, I said the city government was in chaos.
From what I heard Tuesday morning, the chaos lives on.
John Ramey, who took my seat on the council after I left, sounded like an echo of myself, decrying the fact that the city’s purchase order system, as it is practiced, is not a purchase order system at all. The purchases are made without approval and then, after the fact, the required signatures are obtained. It’s really a purchase rubber stamp approval system.
I said essentially the same thing in that December column. And before I wrote about it, I had brought it up repeatedly at the city with no impact.
Ramey also echoed my repeated concerns about the fact that bills are paid without the approval of council. Once the bills are paid, what good does it do to disapprove of them? Easy answer: None.
[Mary Ann Anderson was sitting on the front row reporting on Tuesday’s meeting and I was sitting further back on the other side of the room. When Ramey expressed his concerns, she text-messaged me, saying, “That’s what you’ve been saying all along.” “Amen!!!!” I replied.]
Bills owed by the Board of Education and the County Commission are not paid until approved by the Board and the Commission. That’s as it should be.
At the City, the mayor issues the checks without the knowledge of the council.
Another deja vu moment came when it was revealed that the mayor, without the knowledge of the council, took $100,000 from a line of credit account to pay for work done on the latest airport improvements.
That line of credit was intended to be used as operating capital to fund city expenses, not to pay a contractor for work done at the airport. As a result, the city can barely meet its next payroll expense and the council was forced to increase its existing line of credit so the employees could be paid and other expenses met.
In the motion to increase the city’s line of credit, Ramey and Council member Eric Griffin stipulated that the money would be used only for operating expenses.
If history continues to repeat itself, that stipulation won’t fly.
But, back to the purchase-order-system-that-is-not-a-purchase-order-system-at-all, as I said in the December column, last year it resulted in out of control spending and, as a result, the council had to increase the fees for garbage and trash services, increase various other fees, and increase property taxes.
This year’s spending has now, two months into the current fiscal year, broken the city’s budget so badly that the council will have to adjust their budget. Unless the council can get control of the city’s horrendous spending habits, another round of increases in fees and taxes will be necessary to balance that budget.