Newswire : African Americans audited by IRS more than any other group

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia


A poor, rural county in Tennessee that is predominantly Black receives more audits from the IRS than any other county in the United States while rich counties skate by unbothered, according to a study published on the tax professional news website Tax Notes.

Humphreys County, Tenn., where more than a third of its Black residents live below the poverty line and the median yearly household income is $26,000, somehow is on the IRS’ radar to audit at a higher rate than anywhere else in the nation, according to AOL News.
Greene County, Alabama is another of the poorest counties in America with a high rate of IRS audits, 35% more than Shelby County, the richest county in the state. See Commentary on Page 4.
The irony?
Humphreys County is audited at a rate that is 51 percent higher than wealthy Loudoun County, Virginia, which has a median yearly household income of $130,000, the highest in the country.
The reason is believed to be because the majority of taxpayers in Humphreys County claim the earned income tax credit, a government program to help lower income taxpayers get out of poverty.
According to the report, the top five counties in the United States that were audited by the IRS were predominantly poorer, Black counties in the rural South.
Other highly-audited counties included majority Hispanic counties in Texas, Native American areas in South Dakota, and white, rural spots in Appalachia, according to Salon.com.
Last year, ProPublica found that the IRS audits poor, EITC workers at higher rates than any other group, excluding Americans earning over $1 million annually.
The states that experienced the lowest IRS audit rates were largely white and middle-class, like Minnesota, New Hampshire and Wisconsin. The safest taxpayer bracket were households with a median yearly income between $50,000 and $100,000, according to Salon.
What’s even more alarming about auditing poor, EITC taxpayers at a higher rate than wealthier Americans is that wealthier taxpayers generally commit more instances of tax evasion, which costs the agency more than $450 billion per year, according to the IRS. By comparison, poor people who file more fraudulent tax returns cost the agency $1.6 billion per year.

As the April 15 deadline to file income tax approaches, African Americans aren’t the only ones leery about the IRS.
Americans spend 8.1 billion hours doing taxes each year and the average person spends 11 hours and $200 completing his or her IRS 1040-Form, according to another new report by the personal finance site, WalletHub.

Since the tax code is so complicated and has rules based on individual household characteristics, it’s hard for the average person to tell, WalletHub experts said.
And with a new tax code taking effect this year, 2019 taxes will be quite different than last year.
One simple ratio known as the “tax burden” helps cut through the confusion.
Unlike tax rates, which vary widely based on an individual’s circumstances, tax burden measures the proportion of total personal income that residents pay toward state and local taxes. And it isn’t uniform across the U.S., either.
To determine the residents with the biggest tax burdens, WalletHub compared the 50 states across the three tax types of state tax burdens — property taxes, individual income taxes and sales and excise taxes — as a share of total personal income in the state.
With a 12.97 percent total tax burden, New York has the highest burden of any state, followed by Hawaii (11.71 percent); Maine (10.84 percent); Vermont (10.77 percent); and Minnesota (10.25 percent).
Alaska enjoyed the lowest overall tax burden at 5.10 percent followed by Delaware (5.55 percent); Tennessee (6.28 percent); Florida (6.56 percent); and New Hampshire (6.86 percent).

Water and sewage problems in Branch Heights go unattended

Shown L to R: Anita Lewis, CEO and Spiver Gordon, Board Chairperson of Greene Co. Housing Authority inspecting raw sewage in Branch Heights yard.

“We have four units with a total of 19 children in the 800 block of Branch Heights where there are water and sewer problems that are impacting the health and safety of this community,” said Anita Lewis, Director of the Greene County Housing Authority.
Mrs. Lewis says that she has been trying to work with the City of Eutaw to resolve the problems but says the Mayor is unresponsive.
“The Streets in Branch Heights belong to the City of Eutaw.
The water and sewer flow in pipes under the streets, which are the City’s responsibility. Some of the pipes are old terracotta and are deteriorating. Since the City repaved the streets in Branch Heights this has put additional pressure on the old pipes and they are leaking,” said Lewis.
Mrs. Lewis had a licensed plumber to come and dig down to the level of the pipes, where sewage was leaking.

     “The plumber says the blockage and the problems with the pipes, which is putting raw sewage in resident’s yards and backing up into their bathrooms, is under the city’s streets and will have to be fixed by the City or paid for by the City,” says Lewis. 

Lewis also points out that the City of Eutaw collects water, sewage and garbage fees from residents in Branch Heights, and should be responsible for repairs to their system.
Mayor Raymond Steele said in a Council Working Session on Tuesday evening that “Water and sewer problems are our top priority and we are working with a reduced staff and old equipment, so it will take time to get to all the leaks in the city.”
The Mayor said he is working on numerous water leaks and is aware of the sewage leak in Branch Heights. The Mayor asked for patience by the Council members and the residents, so the City could get to fixing all the leaking pipes, clearing drainage ditches and cutting grass over the coming months.
Councilman Joe Lee Powell, whose district includes Branch Heights said, “ I will not be voting for the Courthouse Streetscape Project or other projects in other parts of the City until these critical safety hazards in Branch Heights are cleared up.”
Mrs. Lewis suggests that the City may be facing a larger problem since it repaved the streets in Branch Heights without dealing with the aging pipes that are buried in the ground. “ I spoke to HUD, ADEM, Congresswoman Terri Sewell and others about this problem and there may be grant funds available to fix the water and sewer pipes but the City of Eutaw is the responsible party to apply for the funds. The streets and the pipes under them belong to the City.”
“I have set up meetings with HUD, ADECA and others to resolve this problem but the Mayor has not been willing to attend

Greene County Alabama New South Coalition donates $5,000 to Greene County Health System

Shown in photo: (L.to R.) are ANSC members: John Zippert (who also serves on the GCHS Board of Directors), Sarah Duncan, Commissioner Lester Brown, Daisy Hutton, Judge Lillie Osborne, Elzora Fluker, GCHS CEO- Dr. Marcia Pugh, Carol P. Zippert, Leo Branch and Spiver W. Gordon.

The Greene County Chapter of the Alabama New South Coalition donated $5,000 raised at its recent ‘Black and White Heritage Ball ’ and related grassroots fundraising to the Greene County Health System.
Carol P. Zippert, ANSC Chapter President said, “ This donation is in keeping with our ANSC motto, ‘A Change for the Better in Our Lifetime’ and we hope this will encourage other community organizations, businesses and institutions to support the hospital and help to keep it open for the use of Greene County residents.”
Dr. Pugh, GCHS CEO said, “ We really appreciate this contribution from ANSC and will put it to good use in improving our health services.”

Newswire: Ghana’s crown jewel of biodiversity threatened by bauxite mining

Atawa Forest in Ghana

Apr. 1, 2019 (GIN) – Environmental groups in Ghana are waging an eleventh hour battle to stop the government of Ghana from opening the Atewa Forest Reserve – a crown jewel of biodiversity and a source of three rivers – to commercial large-scale bauxite mining.

“We don’t want it,” said Chief Nana Larbikrum, 79, from a tiny settlement on the fringes of Atewa, in an interview with Equal Times, a website of social justice activists based in Belgium. He and other farmers who grow and sell cocoa and plantain are especially worried. “They will come and scrape off all the trees, and there won’t be any rainfall or windbreaks for us,” the chief says.

But a contract with the Chinese company is reportedly on the table. To secure a US$19 billion infrastructural loan from the Chinese government, the Chinese state-owned Sinohydro Group has been invited to build roads, bridges and rural electrification projects worth US$2 billion.

In exchange, the company will be paid back from the proceeds made from mining Ghana’s abundant bauxite reserves in Atewa and Nyinahin, another forest reserve in the Ashanti region.

A Rocha Ghana and Concerned Citizens of Atewa Landscape are fighting back, insisting the forest reserve should be designated a national park, which could generate additional income for the country.

The Atewa Forest is critical to the livelihood of humans and biodiversity, they say. Designated one of Ghana’s 30 Globally Significant Biodiversity Areas in 1999, it has the highest diversity of butterflies of any site in West Africa, at least 1100 plant species including 56 threatened with extinction, and thirteen threatened and near-threatened birds.

The U.S.-based Conservation International echoed their concerns.

“Atewa forest is unique,” wrote Okyeame Ampadu-Agyei, Conservation’s Country Director, on the group’s website. “It has excellent biological resources and distinctive upland forest vegetation which unfortunately is under threat by commercial bauxite mines.

The bauxite deposits will eventually be exhausted,” he signaled, “but the forest is a renewable resource which, if protected now, will be appreciated centuries hence long after all the bauxite has gone.”

Ghana has one of the fastest rates of deforestation in West Africa and lost 13 per cent of its forest cover between 2001 and 2017, according to Global Forest Watch. In 25 years, Ghana could lose all of its forests, scientists warn.

Newswire: NAARC applauds reparations conversation by 2020 presidential contenders

Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from Institute of the Black World 21st Century

Dr. Ron Daniels


(TriceEdneyWire.com) – The National African-American Reparations Commission (NAARC) applauds several presidential contenders for their recent expressed interest in reparations and calls on all the candidates to prioritize reparatory justice as an issue of importance to Black voters in the weeks and months ahead.
NAARC is also calling on all 2020 candidates, as well as other lawmakers, to support HR40, the reparations bill authored by former US Cong. John Conyers, which has languished in Congress since 1989. HR-40, which was reintroduced in the 115th Congress, was developed in consultation with NAARC.
It calls for establishing a federal commission to study reparations proposals for African-Americans that would repair the horrific socio-economic damages caused by the enslavement and generations of racially exclusive/discriminatory policies and practices post-emancipation.
The current reparations conversation, namely being forged by candidates Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and former Housing Secretary Julian Castro, is especially relevant in light of the fact that 2019 marks the 400th Anniversary of the arrival of Africans in chains in Virginia, which opened the era of slavery, one of the most sordid chapters in U.S. history.
“In general, the recent statements by presidential candidates are a positive development,” said Dr. Ron Daniels, Convener of NAARC and President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW). “They reflect an increasing body of scholarship that definitively draws the connection between the enslavement of Africans and the persistent wealth-gap and underdevelopment of Black America.”
Candidates are also responding to the growing, multifaceted reparations movement in this country and to the fact that in recent public opinion polls, reparations now enjoys the support of a majority of African-Americans as well as from a growing percentage of young White millennial voters.
“NAARC stands ready to educate and orient candidates and legislators on the definition, background, process, internationally accepted norms and historical precedents for reparations to repair damages inflicted on peoples and nations. Hopefully, this will enrich the public dialogue on this vital issue,” added Dr. Daniels.
NAARC was established in April 2015 at a National/International Reparations Summit convened by IBW in New York City. The nonpartisan Commission is comprised of distinguished Black leaders from across the U.S. in the fields of law, education, public health, economic development, religion, labor, civil and human rights.
For decades, the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (NCOBRA) has been a leading force advancing the struggle for reparations in the U.S. Kamm Howard, National Co-Chairperson of NCOBRA and a NAARC Commissioner, welcomes the surge in support for reparations by the presidential candidates but insists that the discussion and debate be centered around reparations as full repair.
“The international standard holds that reparations ‘must wipe out all consequences’ of the wrongful acts committed against enslaved Africans,” said Howard. “To get us to full repair, policies programs and practices must be developed to produce the following outcomes: cessation and guarantees of non-repetition, restitution, compensation, satisfaction, and rehabilitation. These are the intended outcomes of HR 40. The candidates, some of whom are Senators, should craft a Senate companion bill. This can be done now if they are serious about their support for reparations.”
To help frame the public discourse and as a guide for action by governmental and private entities, NAARC has devised a comprehensive and detailed 10-point reparations program that addresses the issues of repair and restitution. The creation of a National Reparations Trust Fund is among the proposals outlined in the NAACRC Reparations Program.
The Authority would receive funding grants, scholarships, land and other forms of restitution to benefit the collective advancement of Black America. It would be comprised of a cross-section of credible representatives of reparations, civil rights, and human rights, labor, faith, educational, civic and fraternal organizations and institutions.
The Authority would be empowered to establish subsidiary trust funds to administer projects and initiatives in the areas of culture, economic development, education, health and other fields as deemed appropriate based on the demands of the Reparations Program (https://bit.ly/2T0MhZt).
To increase public awareness of the Program, NAARC has convened initial Hearings and Town Hall Meetings in Atlanta and New Orleans and plans to hold additional sessions in a number of cities across the country.

Newswire: $62 Billion in Education Cuts proposed, Key college aid could be slashed

By Charlene Crowell

College graduates

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Every budget defines priorities and values. To put it another way, what’s really important in life gets supported financially. For many families, having a home, food, and utilities usually rank pretty high. Then there are other budgetary concerns like saving for college or having a ‘rainy day’ fund to cover less frequent costs that can be much higher than the size of the next pay check.

Government budgets, built on taxpayer dollars, also reveal priorities. At the federal level, budgets are proposed by the executive branch, but it is the legislative branch that passes and funds budgets. What is in the best interest of the nation is supposed to be the guiding force in government budgets.

But as Sportin’ Life sang in the folk opera Porgy and Bess, “It ain’t necessarily so”.

The White House’s FY 2020 proposal cuts Education funding by $62 billion compared to that of FY 2019. Even worse, as the cost of higher education continues to climb, federal student aid would be seriously slashed while other programs would be totally eliminated.

Some of the most disturbing college federal cuts affect programs that lessen the amount of student loans that need to be borrowed for every academic term. As rising college costs have worsened the financial challenge faced by many Black and other low-wealth families, the availability of grant programs that do not have to be repaid and/or work-study programs are key sources for many college students and their families.

Among its many revisions, the Trump Administration stands ready to risk a sizeable portion of the proposed $7.25 billion in Pell Grant funding next year. This program is the single largest source of grant aid for low-income households for post-secondary education.

On March 26, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Education budget was the focus of a hearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor-Health and Human Services-Education. Secretary Betsy Devos delivered testimonythat expanded upon previously released materials from the Trump Administration.

“Since President Trump took office, Congressional appropriations for U.S. Department of Education programs have increased dramatically – in spite of the Administration’s call to slow spending,” said Secretary DeVos. “We are not doing our children any favors when we borrow from their future in order to invest in systems and policies that are not yielding better results.”

In response, Connecticut’s Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the subcommittee chairwoman did not mince words. “This budget underfunds education at every turn”, said DeLauro who added “This budget inflicts harm.”

Even Rep. Tom Cole from Oklahoma who serves as the subcommittee’s Ranking Member viewed the White House proposal as “short-sighted”.

Representatives DeLauro and Cole were absolutely correct.

The Work-Study program that brings campus-based jobs to students would suffer a double blow. Its monies would be reduced by 55 percent and remaining funds would be shared with proposed pilot program that targeted to private sector employers for workforce development of nontraditional and low-income students. That’s the window dressing on these cuts.

The Work-Study program that received over $1.2 billion in 2019 would be cut to $500.4 million. Secondly, instead of students working on campus, they would need to figure out how to reach employment at private business.

Not every student has a car. Nor is public transit always available near college campuses. These businesses would supplement their revenue streams with public monies but the profits derived would still be private. Previously, Work-Study was jointly funded by the federal government paying 75 percent of hourly wages, with the remaining 25 percent paid by the college employer.

What for-profit business wouldn’t want the government to pick up 75 percent of its labor costs? Seems that the private business – not the student – is the greater concern with this budget.

“Betsy DeVos has some explaining to do – her disinterest in prioritizing quality and affordable education for students is disheartening and erodes the confidence the public has in the Department of Education,” said Debbie Goldstein, an EVP with the Center for Responsible Lending.

Currently, the formula-based Pell Grant award averages $4,251 per participating student. Next year as proposed, the program’s average award will be slightly less at $4,149 and traditional grant recipient students would be forced to share those funds with others enrolled in workforce development training that does not accrue credit hours or traditional academic terms.

Regular readers of this column may recall, many career and technical training institutions are also for-profit entities that in recent years have either failed to provide the training promised, or the earnings assured by admissions personnel – or both. In the worst-case scenarios, tens of thousands of students have been enrolled at the time of closures that came with little or no notice.

The Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant is need-based and financially helps low-income, undergraduate students. For the past two fiscal years, this program was funded at $1.7 billion. If the Trump Administration’s proposal holds, no monies will support this program next year.

The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants are available to students whose parent or guardian was a member of the Armed Forces and died as a result of their military deployment in either Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001. In FY 2019, the average grant in this program was $5,293. In FY 2020, the White House would end it with no appropriation.

These are only a few of the cuts proposed to higher education at a time when education is more important today than ever before. The global economy requires a highly-skilled and knowledgeable workforce. It seems so ironic that this White House keeps placing businesses before the needs of people.

“Instead of punishing for-profit institutions that have deceived students and encouraged them to take on unaffordable levels of student debt, Secretary DeVos will defend President Trump’s proposal to extend taxpayer money to finance unproven short-term programs, many of which will be offered by these very same for-profit college,” added Goldstein.

Here’s hoping that Congress will hear a loud outcry on gutting federal financial aid. Enacting a budget that represents the needs of people should and must prevail.

Newswire Census 2020: For all to count, all must be counted

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia


While every Census faces challenges and even controversies, the count remains important because it’s the federal government’s very first responsibility to the U.S. Constitution, the cornerstone of the nation’s representative democracy and America’s largest peacetime activity, said Terri Ann Lowenthal, a consultant to many census stakeholders and former staff director for the U.S. House Subcommittee on Census and Population.
However, Lowenthal believes the 2020 Census is heading into “a perfect storm.”
“I think of unprecedented factors that could thwart a successful enumeration – one that counts all communities equally well,” said Lowenthal, who consults on The Census Project, a collaboration of business and industry associations; civil rights advocates; state and local governments; social service agencies; researchers and scientific societies; planners; foundations; and nonprofits focused on housing, child and family welfare, education, transportation, and other vital services.
“The risks include cyber-threats foreign and domestic, IT failures, weather events that have become more extreme, disinformation campaigns, and the unknown consequences of adding a new, untested citizenship question,” she said.
The official kick-off to the 2020 Census begins Monday, April 1 in Washington where the U.S. Census Bureau will host a live operational press briefing to mark the one-year out milestone from the 2020 Census.
Bureau Director Dr. Steven Dillingham and others in leadership plan to brief the public on the status of operations and provide updates on the success of the integrated partnership and communication campaign.
Lowenthal said the unknown consequences of adding a new, untested citizenship question are among the growing challenges facing the 2020 Census. This question is before Federal courts and will be resolved before next year’s Census.
She noted other challenges including consistent underfunding and President Trump’s budget request for next year, which is well below the amount needed; distrust of government at many levels; and fear among immigrants that their census responses will be used to harm them and their families.
“An inclusive, accurate census is especially important for Black Americans and other people of color,” Lowenthal said.
“The census determines the distribution of political power, from Congress, to state legislatures, to city councils and school boards, and guides the allocation of almost $9 trillion over the decade in federal assistance to states and communities for hospitals, public transit, school facilities, veterans services, Medicaid, school lunches, and many other vital services,” she said.
Unfortunately, advocates say the census is not an equal opportunity enumeration.
Scientific yardsticks since 1940 reveal that the census misses Black Americans at disproportionately high rates, especially Black men ages 18 to 49 and Black children under age five.
“At the same time, the census over-counted non-Hispanic Whites in 2000 and 2010. And because the people who are more likely to be missed do not live in the same neighborhoods as those more likely to be double-counted, some communities get more than their fair share of political representation and resources, while others get less than they deserve and need,” Lowenthal said, adding that we then must live with those results for the next ten years.
The Census is a civil rights issue with huge implications for everyone, particularly people of color, added Beth Lynk, the director of the Census Counts Campaign at The Leadership Conference Education Fund.
“Census data are used to draw congressional district lines and help determine the amount of federal funding communities receive for programs like Head Start and SNAP,” Lynk said.
“Communities that are missing from the census lose out on what they need to stay safe and healthy. Unfortunately, Black people and Latinos are considered to be harder to count, and accurately counting these populations takes a focused effort,” she said.
Lynk added: “That’s why it’s critical that local governments and community organizations educate their own constituents and members and encourage them to be counted.”
Census data are inherently personal; the data record and codify individual stories, and help to paint a mosaic of rich racial, ethnic, cultural, and geographic identities, said Jason Jurjevich, Assistant Director of the Population Research Center, a research institute in the College of Urban and Public Affairs at Portland State University in Oregon.
“Telling the story of diverse communities, including individuals of color, requires a fair and accurate count,” Jurjevich said.
“As with any census, an all too common obstacle is that some individuals are excluded, resulting in an undercount. In the 2010 Census, considered one of the most accurate censuses in recent American history, 1.5 percent of Hispanics and 2.1 percent of African-Americans were undercounted,” he said.
Jurjevich added that among African-American men, ages 30 to 49, the undercount was much higher, at 10.1 percent.
The decennial census is the one chance, every ten years, to stand up and be counted, Jurjevich added.
Also, he noted that Census 2020 will offer the first-ever online response option, which could improve census response rates and, at the same time, numerous challenges and barriers will likely make it more difficult to count Americans in the 2020 Census.
“This means that communities will need to organize and address on-the-ground challenges like the proposed citizenship question, increasing public distrust in government, growing fears among immigrants about the current sociopolitical climate, the first-ever online response option and concerns around the digital divide and security of personal data, and inconsistent and insufficient federal funding,” Jurjevich said.

Newswire: Lori Lightfoot will be Chicago’s 1st Black, female mayor

By: Herbert G. McCann and Sara Burnett, Associated Press

Lori Lightfoot, Mayor of Chicago

     CHICAGO — Former federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot defeated a longtime political insider Tuesday to become Chicago's next mayor, the first black woman and openly gay person to lead the nation's third-largest city.

Lightfoot, who had never been elected to public office, easily defeated Toni Preckwinkle, who served in the City Council for 19 years before becoming Cook County Board president. Preckwinkle also is chairwoman of the county Democratic Party.
Lightfoot promised to rid City Hall of corruption and help low-income and working-class people she said had been “left behind and ignored” by Chicago’s political ruling class. It was a message that resonated with voters weary of political scandal and insider deals, and who said the city’s leaders for too long have invested in downtown at the expense of neighborhoods.
Chicago will become the largest U.S. city to have a black woman serve as mayor when Lightfoot is sworn in May 20. She will join seven other black women currently serving as mayors in major U.S. cities, including Atlanta and New Orleans and will be the second woman to lead Chicago.
Lightfoot, 56, and her wife have one daughter.

Bingo entities provide $372,455 to county recipients for February

Shown above Bingo Clerk Minnie Byrd, Forkland Clerk Kinya Isaac, Union Councilwoman Rosie Davis, Greene County Heath System CEO Dr. Marcia Pugh, Greene County Sheriff Jonathan Benison, Brenda Burke representing Greene County Commission, Assistant Chief of Police Walter Beck representing the City of Eutaw, Boligee City Councilwoman Ernestine Wade and Bingo Clerk Emma Jackson

Thursday, March 21, 2019 the Greene County Sheriff Department reported a total distribution of $372,455 for the month of February, 2019 from the five licensed gaming operations in the county. The recipients of the monthly distributions from bingo gaming designated by Sheriff Benison in his Bingo Rules and Regulations include the Greene County Commission, the Greene County Sheriff’s Department, the cities of Eutaw, Forkland, Union, Boligee, the Greene County Board of Education and the Greene County Hospital (Health System).
Greenetrack, Inc. gave a total of $65,000 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, the Greene County Health System, $5,000.

Green Charity (Center for Rural Family Development) gave a total of $67,500 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, the Greene County Health System, $7,500.
Frontier (Dream, Inc.) gave a total of $67,500 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, Greene County Health System, $7,500.
River’s Edge (NNL – Next Level Leaders and TCCTP – Tishabee Community Center Tutorial Program) gave a total of $73,125 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, and the Greene County Health System, $13,125.
Palace (TS Police Support League) gave a total of $99,330 to the following: Greene County Commission, $4,620; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $36,960; City of Eutaw, $27,720; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $4,620; Greene County Board of Education, $4,620 and the Greene County Health System, $11,550.

Eutaw Mayor and City Council in disagreement on major issues

By: John Zippert,
Co-Publisher

At Tuesday night’s meeting on March 26, 2019, Mayor Raymond Steele and the Eutaw City Council remain divided over major issues.
In response to the written agenda passed out for the meeting, Councilman LaJeffrey Carpenter asked to place two additional items on the agenda, including a request for an Executive Session on a personnel issue and a follow-up to the council’s resolution on check signing.
Mayor Steele was visibly distressed and said that council members should bring their agenda suggestions to him before the meeting so that they can be reviewed and the staff can prepare a response and provide information that is needed. The Council added these items to the agenda over the Mayor’s objections.
After a short eight minute Executive Session, the Council reconvened and asked the Mayor if he had implemented a resolution they passed at the January 22, 2019 meeting, which removed the Mayor as the signatory on most city bank accounts and made Councilmembers Joe Lee Powell and LaJeffrey Carpenter along with City Clerk, Kathy Bir as the designated signatories on these accounts.
Mayor Steele said he had not implemented the change because he had not been given reasons for changing the signatories. “ I am in charge of the day to day business of the City, it is critical that the Mayor be able to sign checks. I do not have any problem with adding other signatories to the accounts. You will not tell me why you don’t want me to sign –
This is not right.”
Councilwoman Latasha Johnson asked City Attorney, Zane Willingham, to prepare written instructions for the City Council as to “what to do when the Mayor does not implement policies and actions decided and approved by the Council.” The Council in a resolution approved these instructions.
Councilwoman Latasha Johnson also indicated that the Mayor had not implemented the policy, also adopted in the January 22, 2019 meeting, that cash would not be accepted to pay water bills and other obligations to the City. Johnson said,
“Cash is still being accepted, no signs have been posted as we requested. The Mayor has decided on his own not to implement this policy on taking cash approved by the City Council.”
Councilwoman Sheila Smith questioned the Mayor about problems with the water bills. “Too many residents are paying the minimum water bill of $38.58 for residences and $58.38 for businesses. The water meters or the water meter reading system is not working properly and we are loosing money we need to pay for the water system and operate the city.”
Mayor Steele said that all of the new meters have been checked and are working properly. He said that he would review this problem again and try to find a solution.

The Council was given a detailed report on bills to be paid for the month of March. Several Councilmembers objected that they we given the information about the bills late and did not have time to study the expenditures. Payment of the bills was tabled until the next meeting to give the Council members time to review.
LaJeffrey Carpenter asked Mayor Steele why he had only re-paved the roads in Branch Heights, while the roads in King Village, Carver Circle and other parts city also needed similar repairs. The mayor in exasperation answered, “ You know we agreed to the roads in Branch Heights as a special project. We do not have enough money at this time to do all of the roads or make all of the repairs that the Council is requesting.”

The Mayor indicated that he was trying to get some disaster relief funds allocated to the City of Eutaw for street repairs since the recent rains had eroded some of the streets.

Mayor Steele said he was still working on an audit which was necessary to secure funding for new police cars and construction equipment from USDA Rural Development.
“The equipment we have is worn out and more than ten years old. We have no new tax base and limited funds to pay for needed improvements to the City. When we start earning new taxes from the Love’s Truck Stop, then we may be able to afford the repairs and improvements needed by the City,” said Mayor Steele.
Councilmembers responded that this was why they were asking for a budget and audit so they could understand and project the City’s finances to pay current obligations and plan for future expenditures.
In other actions, the Eutaw City Council approved a retail beer and wine license for Love’s truck Stop and publication for four week’s of the City’s request for Sunday alcohol sales, which will generate some additional revenues.