Ard, others call for ‘yes’ vote

Published 4:34 am Friday, April 20, 2018

Several other members of the Bogalusa City Council have also expressed their opinions concerning the proposed April 28 property tax increase.

The increase would raise taxes by 15 mills (which is actually a 12-mill increase, as 3 mills expired after 2017). The hike is an effective 25-percent increase in property taxes for Bogalusa citizens.

The tax will be used to stabilize the city’s retirement system for office and public-works employees.

Four additional Bogalusa City Council members provided their comments about the proposal. They are published verbatim.

Scott Ard of District D agreed that the tax increase is a necessary solution to a lingering problem.

“I support the Pension Fund Millage because it is only right to correct a travesty such as this,” Ard said. “I’ve had many conversations, in support of and opposition to this dedicated measure replacing funds that many people worked diligently for, saved and lived within their means, and planned their retirement years. People have spent their lifetime planning not only for their life after work, but provisions for those who survive them after death.

“I cannot, in good conscience, see this measure as anything but right; one simply cannot ‘unsee’ an issue of this magnitude once ‘it has been seen.’

“In my opinion, we also have an obligation to investigate this matter and determine who, how, why, and if any laws have been violated. Without a full investigation and bringing criminal charges, if applicable, we would not be able to say we saw the matter go full circle.

“My challenge to each voter is to explore your conscience, question whether if in a position where you are tasked with righting a wrong, or being without a pension you spent a lifetime saving was in jeopardy, how would you feel and what would you do?”

Sherry Fortenberry of District E said that ensuring the city employees’ retirement fund has been one of her top priorities.

“City employee’s retirement fund has been one of my number one priorities,” said District E Councilwoman Sherry Fortenberry. “These employees work for retirement. I totally support this tax to be dedicated monies and can’t be used for anything else.”

Gloria Kates, who represents District A and is currently serving as the council president, agreed with Ard and Fortenberry.

“These are trying times for our nation, state, and city,” said council president Gloria Kates, who represents District A. “I have always advocated to lessen the burden of taxes on our citizens. I am hoping for the best endeavors for all of our citizens to include the past, present, and future retirees of the City of Bogalusa. I can not predict the voting results on the upcoming retirement and pension millage tax ballot, but I can convey, unlike the current City of Bogalusa Employee’s Retirement System’s authorized mills are placed into the General Fund; the agenda of the LA Bond Commission meeting held on Feb. 15th, 2018, Item #36 L18 -050 – Washington Parish, City of Bogalusa describes this millage tax as paying retirement and pension benefits to the Employees Retirement System (COBERS) for the period of 2018-2037 and according to the LA Legislative Auditors Monitoring document, the plan of action is for this ad-valorem tax to be dedicated specifically to the retirement system. In retrospect of the past (arising issues were reported in 2012) and moving forward, I continue to search and pray for solutions, also, welcoming citizen’s feedback to resolve effects of this matter and any other issues that will bring the most excellent, effective, fair, and favorable outcome for the citizens and the city of Bogalusa.”

Doug Ritchie, who represents the Bogalusa City Council as an at-large member, agreed that the tax proposal is a necessary step.

“I think it’s important because they worked for it and deserve it,” Ritchie said. “I will be voting for it, and so will my wife. They worked their whole careers for it.”