Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Annexation Process

If you read the paper today, then you know the Mayor wants to double the size of the city by annexing parts of the county. I was curious how this process would work. So I went to the Mississippi Secretary of State's website, where I can look at the Mississippi Code, assuming that Natchez must conform to state laws governing annexation.

This information is found in Title 21 Municipalities: Chapter 1 Classifiction, Creation, Abolition, and Expansion. Extention or Contraction of Corporate Boundaries is found Sections
§ 21-1-27 through §21-1-41.

First, the City has to pass an ordinance (following procedures in the City Code) defining the changed boundaries, describing proposed improvements in the annexed territory and when they will be made, and stating the services the City will provide to the annexed territory. Unless they decide to suspend the rules, we may assume the public will have an opportunity to be heard.

Next, the City files a petition in the Chancery Court. Any parties interested in, affected by, or aggrieved by the annexation have the right to appear at the hearing. The chancellor (which I assume is the Chancery Court Judge) decides if the annexation "is reasonable and is required by the public convenience and necessity" and that "reasonable public and municipal services will be rendered . . . in a reasonable time". The burden of proof is on the City. The chancellor also has the power to modify the annexation.

The decree of the chancellor goes into effect in 10 days, unless appealed before that. The City or any person aggrieved by the decision may appeal, and it goes to the Mississippi State Supreme Court for a final decision. The loser pays for the costs of the appeal.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Board of Aldermen Stonewalls Raises Issue

I was on the Agenda of the Board of Aldermen tonight. I made a brief presentation about the raises being illegal, since I had already written them all letters, including the citations from the City Code. I ended by asking, "So am I right?" Dead silence. The Mayor asked the Aldermen if anyone wanted to say anything. Then Ricky Gray said he wasn't going to answer my question, but he had something to say when I was through. I said I was through. I have to paraphrase what he said, since I didn't have a recorder.

He was mad that I called him a "hypocrite" for voting to suspend the rules to allow the vote. (Someone's reading the blog, since that's the only place I've used that word.) He said there are numerous motions to suspend the rules, which he votes for without knowing why they've been made. (So I guess he votes for things he doesn't know anything about and somehow thinks that's better than being a hypocrite.) He said I should have brought the issue to the attention of the Mayor first. (I did, but he never answered me.) But then he went way over the line. He said the Library (where I work) has enough problems of its own and needs to get its own house in order before telling other people how to run their business. He gave examples, which I'm not going to dignify by repeating.

I said, very forcefully, that this has nothing to do with the Library. That I was here as a private citizen and the work was done on my own time. I sincerely hoped that no one on the Board would hold the Library responsible for anything that I did or said on my own time.

When Ricky finished, I asked the Mayor if I was going to get an answer to my question. He said he asked the Aldermen if they wanted to say anything, and no one did. I said that I guessed I wasn't going to get an answer - and that was very interesting! I then sat down and stayed for the rest of the meeting. It was a short meeting and not much happened. (Although I understand something big happened in the meeting before the meeting.)

After the meeting, I was on the sidewalk walking home, and Alderman David Massey passed me on his way to his car. I asked him, "Don't you think y'all should have answered my question?" Obviously very angry, he said, "Lady, you need to get a life. You have big problems." I just said "Whew!" as he slammed his car door.

Now I may not be a lawyer, but I am a psychologist. This is the behavior of guilty and defensive parties, and it is very obvious to me that the Board broke the law. If I had been wrong, they would have told me so - and probably taken great joy in making me look like an idiot. What possible reason could they have for not correcting me?

They could have admitted their mistake, said they didn't realize it at the time, apologized to the citizens of the City, and then done it the right way. I think most people would have been so impressed with that response that they wouldn't even have objected to the raises. I know I wouldn't have objected. I was more upset with the process than I was with the raise itself. But of course, this type of rational response is not in the personality make up of this Board.

Tell me again - when is the next election?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Updates on Tax Assessment

Previously, I told you how to look up the value of property belonging to anyone in the state. At the time, I wasn't sure what all the terms meant. After a visit to the Tax Assessor's office, I can report the following:
  • True Improved Value is the value of your house.
  • True Land Value is the value of your land.
  • True Value is the value of your house and land combined.
  • Assessed Value is 10% of the True Value and is what your taxes are based on.
  • You pay taxes for the county and for the school district - plus the city if you live in Natchez. All three together add up to .1662, unless someone raises taxes.
  • Multiple your Assessed Value by .1662 to determine your taxes.
  • Then subtract your homestead exemption.

Don't forget the Mayor & Board of Aldermen meet Tuesday at 6 pm. I hope to be on the Agenda about the raises, and I requested it in time. We'll see!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Raises Again

Below is a copy of a letter that I've written to the Mayor and Aldermen and will hand deliver tomorrow. Hopefully, my request to be on the Agenda will be early enough. Make plans to come to the next meeting on Tuesday, August 22 at 6 pm.

On June 17, you voted to give yourself a raise effective July 1. I believe that vote was illegal, and I have enclosed the wording of the two applicable sections of the City Code.

If I am incorrect, then please let me know why. On the other hand, if I am correct, then I am asking that you acknowledge your mistake, rescind the motion, and do it again legally.

I am requesting that I be placed on the Agenda of the meeting on August 22 to discuss this issue.

Interesting Fact from Natchez Water Works

At the last meeting of the Mayor & Board of Aldermen, David Gardiner (Natchez Water Works) reported that for the first month since Katrina, there were more water turn offs than water turn ons in July. Generally speaking, when your turn ons are higher than your turn offs, your population is growing, and vice versa. (This sounds vaguely obscene.)

Is this a trend or just a blip?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Find Tax Appraised Value of Anyone's House

This is a very interesting site, which was found accidently by an anonymous friend who passed it on to me. It's from the State Treasurer's office. If you click on the link (which is the title above), you'll see a list of counties. Click on Adams for our county - but you can do any county. Then put in a name., and you'll see a list of properties in that name. Click on one, and you'll see the 2005 landroll information.

Here are two examples: my house and Trent Lott's, which I guess is no longer there.

Casey - Trent
True Value (TV): 87,060 - 308,940
Assessed Value: 8,706 - 30,894 (10% of TV)
Cultivated Value (CV): 900 - 0 (10% of TLV)
True Improved Value (TIV): 78,060 - 122,060 (TV-CV/UC)
Improved Value: 7,806 - 12,206 (10% of TIV)
Uncultivated Value (UV): 0 - 186,880 (100% of TLV)
True Land Value (TLV): 9,000 - 186,880

I have no idea what all this means. What is cultivated and uncultivated value? Why deduct only 10% of cultivated and 100% of uncultivated? Most importantly, how are my taxes figured on this? If anyone knows the answer, please post a comment. Otherwise, I think I'll trot myself over to the Tax Assessors Office to find out.

One interesting thing: Trent starts with a True Value worth more than 3.5 times mine. He ends up with an Improved Value worth only 1.5 times mine. Maybe that vegetable garden in my back yard is hurting me!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

How to Find Out What the Law Is

If you want to be a responsible and active citizen, and you can't afford to hire a lawyer, you need to be able to look up the law yourself. Fortunately, that's a lot easier now than it used to be because of the Internet.

Mississippi Law
  • It's valuable to have the website of the State of Mississippi saved in your Favorites to check out all sorts of state agencies.
  • The entire Mississippi state code is online and searchable.
  • If you want an old fashioned paper copy, it's in the Armstrong Library. You may read it and make copies, but it is Reference material and cannot be checked out.

City Law

  • Just recently, the Armstrong Library has received a paper copy of the Natchez City Code. Again, it is Reference Material and cannot be checked out.
  • The City Code is not yet available online. However, it can be for only $400 a year. The Mayor has been asked to put that amount in the City Budget for next fiscal year (October 1). So hopefully that will be available soon.

County Law

  • You're not going to believe this, but there is no copy of the County Code. If you want to know what the law is, you have to go searching through all the old minutes. Looks like somebody doesn't want you to know what's going on!
  • The good news is that Chancery Clerk Tommy O'Beirne is going through the minutes to put everything in one place. There's no telling how long that will take.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Rinaldi Strikes Again!

On the front page of the Miss Lou Magazine, you'll see an article entitled Aldermen's Raise Illegal? - Commentary by Peter Rinaldi. (You will recognize the information right away, since it came from this blog.) At the end of the article it says: Thanks to Casey Ann Hughes of Natchez for her research on this controversy. See her commentary at

This is a perfect example of why I'm not a big Rinaldi fan. He's smart, and he knows alot, but there's always something missing or not quite right about what he writes. If you were reading the article and you didn't know any better, you might think I was a researcher for Rinaldi - or at the very least that I had provided the information to him for his use. However, he not only didn't ask me if it was alright to use my information, he didn't even have the courtesy to let me know. Such a class act!

Let me tell you how I found out - it's a good story. A charming gentlemen that I did not know called me on Tuesday evening. He wanted to tell me about some other issues I should research. He obviously thought I was some kind of investigative reporter. During the course of the conversation, he said he was 90 years old. I was very impressed that someone of his age should be reading a blog, and I asked him who told him about it. He was totally confused. Finally, he said, "I didn't get this off any computer - I read it in my paper." Now I'm confused, so I asked which one. He said the one they throw in his driveway for free - written by the guy who attacks everybody. He thought I worked for it. I quickly assured him I did not!

It took me a while to find a copy of the paper, since apparently it's not delivered everywhere at the same time. A friend kindly brought me a copy.

Oh, by the way, I intend to send Rinaldi a copy of this. (My momma taught me some manners.)

Educational Inadequacies

gritsisit said...

I wish our leaders would address the educational inadequacies in Natchez. When this was brought up at a city council meeting last year, I heard Joyce Arceneaux say "Natchez has a wonderful education system" and that was the end of the discussion. I've also heard that our ACT scores in Natchez were second to last in the country - after the city of Washington, D.C. Is that true? Does anyone know the facts?

Skyrocketing real estate prices!

sayitaintso said...

Who has thoughts about the skyrocketing real estate prices? Lil ol Natchez has something going on . . . I feel the groundswell. But, what might it be? Could Katrina have done this?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

How to View and Post Comments

There are two ways to see and/or post comments. At the end of each Article you’ll see:
  1. The Time the article was posted. Click to see the article with the Comments listed afterwards. At the end of the Comments is a link to Post a Comment which you can click to post your own.
  2. The word Comments with a number after it, which indicates how many comments there have been. Click on Comments to see other comments and to post one of your own.

Either way, here's how to post a comment:

  1. Clicking (as described above) will take you to a place to type your message.
  2. You may choose to sign into your Google/Blogger account or post as Anonymous. Although Anonymous is allowed, we encourage you to get a Google Account. (See below for how.) At some point, we might have to disallow Anonymous comments.

If you don't have an account, look where it says: “No Google Account? Sign up here." Click on that to create an account. Only Google will have this information - it is not sent to us.

  1. You will be asked for a username, a password, a display name, and your email address.
  2. Your username is how you login to Google, and it can be anything you want. However, I will warn you there are millions of people registered, and you will have to come up with something unusual.
  3. Your password can be anything you want, so long as it is at least 6 characters long.
  4. Your display name is what is shown when you post a comment, and it can be anything you want. It doesn’t have to be the same as your username. This is what can make your comments anonymous, because no one, including me, knows who that is.
  5. After that, it will ask you what you want to call your blog. You can leave that blank and click on continue.

That’s it! Once you’ve done that, your comments will be posted to the blog for all to see with your Display Name as author.

This blog is moderated. That means that comments have to be approved prior to being posted. If your comments are irrelevant to the article, use profanity, or contain scurrilous comments about others, they will not be published. Comments typed in all caps will not be published. Comments with extensive grammatical and spelling errors will not be published. However, your opinion will NEVER cause your comments not to be published.

Remember, unless you use your real name for your display name, no one will know who said it.

If you have any questions, email Casey Ann.

Report on Meeting

I did not get on the Agenda for the Board of Aldermen today. You now have to make your request, in writing, the Wednesday before the meeting. I understand that rule has been around for a while, and they decided to start enforcing it. There were others in the audience who had the same problem I did. I'll let you know what I decide to do now.

The major items of interest today were the raises for police and firefighters. I believe what they said was $2700 across the board raises. The raises go into effect September 1, even though the fiscal year doesn't start until October 1. The employees of the Public Works Department got a $.50/hour raise, which was accomplished without increasing their budget. One person retired, they will not replace that person, and duties have been rearranged.

If you were at the meeting, please let us know (by Comment) if I forgot anything important.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Questions about the Aldermen Raises

On June 27, the Board of Aldermen voted themselves a raise. Here is the exact wording from the Minutes.
Alderman Massey asked that a motion be made to suspend the rules to make changes to an ordinance. A motion was made by Alderman West and seconded by Alderman Massey to suspend the rules to make changes to an ordinance. The motion carried unanimously. Alderman Massey noted that it has been ten (10) years since there was a change in the salary of the Board of Aldermen. A motion was made by Alderman Massey and seconded by Alderman West to change the salary of the Alderman to $22,300 effective July 1, 2006. The motion carried with the vote being as follows: Arceneaux-Mathis=Yes, Gray = No, Pollard=No, West=Yes, Massey=Yes, Middleton=No. The vote was tied 3-3. Mayor West voted yes to break the tie.
Three hypocrites: Gray, Pollard, and Middleton think they're off the hook because they voted against the increase. Don't let them get away with it. They voted to suspend the rules which allowed this vote, and they are just as responsible as the others. If they really cared about the city, its citizens, and its employees, they should have voted against the suspension of the rules. At least the other three were honest in their greediness. It's pretty obvious that a deal was worked out on who would vote which way.

Is It Legal? Probably not. Here's a copy of an email I sent to the Mayor on July 11.

As you know, the Board voted to give itself a raise retroactive to the beginning of the year. It appears to me that action violates the City's code, as follows:

Part I. Charter
Sec. 23. Salaries of officers

The mayor and all subordinate officers of said city shall, for their services, respectively, receive a just compensation by annual salary or otherwise, payable out of the revenue of said city, to be established and regulated by ordinance of said mayor and aldermen in council; and the aldermen shall receive such compensation as shall be so established, out of said revenues; but, there shall be no increase of the compensation of aldermen to take effect during the year in which it is made.

Part II Code
Chapter 2 Administration
Article II Mayor and Board of Aldermen
Division II Rules of Procedure
Sec. 2-85.
Salary increases (Rule 49).

Other than at the time of the adoption of the budget for the succeeding year, no salary raises shall be made without first referring same to the finance committee to be sure that funds are provided for this purpose in the budget and approved by the board at two successive regular meetings. This rule shall not be subject to suspension as in rule 50.

Would you please refer this to the City Attorney and ask him to respond?

First, I sent this before I had been allowed to see a copy of the Minutes. The public is not allowed to see the Minutes until they've been approved at the following meeting. So you have to wait at least a half month before seeing what actually happened at a meeting. I tried to get a copy at the July 11 meeting, but no one could seem to find a copy (!), so I wrote the letter based on what I thought I had heard or been told. A couple of days later, I was able to get a copy of the Minutes. It turns out that the raises were not retroactive, according to what's in the Minutes.

But everything else is absolutely right. I have quoted directly from the City Code and cited the appropriate sections. By the way, the city's fiscal year starts on October 1, and the calendar year starts on January 1. No matter which type of year you choose, July 1 is not appropriate.

Surprise! Surprise! I have not heard from the City Attorney. The Board did not meet on July 25 as scheduled. They will meet again On Tuesday, August 8 at 11 am. I intend to ask to be on the calendar to discuss this issue, and I would appreciate your being there to support me.

PS I sent a copy of my letter to the Natchez Democrat, and the reporter was looking into it, but there has been no article yet.

Casey Ann Hughes