State wants control of financially-strapped city of Bogalusa

Bogalusa state takeover

BOGALUSA, La. (WVUE) - Bogalusa is a town of about 12,000 residents and sits on the North Shore of Lake Ponchartrain in Washington Parish. Now, the state says the city’s finances are in such bad shape that a state-appointed fiscal administrator should take over.

Bogalusa Mayor Wendy Perrette said the problem is not new and has been hurting retirement pension for decades.

"It’s an issue that’s been our issue in the city of Bogalusa for a long time, approximately 30 years now, where the retirement system has not been funded correctly, or [I] should say fully,” Perrette said.

The state’s Fiscal Review Committee monitors municipalities’ fiscal issues, which is made up of legislative auditor Daryl Purpera, the state treasurer and the attorney general.

“With the Town of Bogalusa, we believe it does need a fiscal administrator to assist them to right the ship, maybe reform the government some,” Purpera said. “There’s a lot of different issues, but I’m going to tell you the one that really throws it over the top for us is their retirement system is 17 percent funded.”

State Sen. Beth Mizell (R-Franklinton) represents the Bogalusa area and said she thinks a financial administrator would benefit the city.

“I think it’s a huge opportunity, I mean to have oversight that’s going to make sure that promises that have been made to those retirees who are currently in the system, or that will be in the system, to know that those promises will be kept. This is a huge opportunity for Bogalusa to take its history to the next page and I hope we use it as that,” Mizell said.

Perrette said voters have rejected taxes that would have provided funds for the pension system.

"I will work with whomever, the State of Louisiana, we have worked hand-in-hand with for the past four years, going on the fifth year now. These problems didn’t happen yesterday. They’ve been going on for a long time now and now it is the end of the road,” Perrette said.

If they come in to help, the fiscal administrators will have broad control.

“The fiscal administrator has a lot of authority,” Purpera said. "They become basically the mayor and the council,” said Purpera.

So far, no retirees have gone without benefits due to the town’s retirement system issues, according to Purpera.

“Not at this point,” Purpera said. “That’s right and so we want to make sure it stays that way.”

Mizell believes Bogalusa will be better off in the long-run if it goes through the oversight process.

"We’ve got to decide if we’re going to really put both feet into turning things around, in giving us a new future with security for our retirees, fiscal security for the citizens of this town, or if we’re going to try to avoid doing what we know is fiscally responsible,” Mizell said.

The mayor said she is focused on making cuts across the board.

"Maybe they’ll come in and see we’ve made those changes and if not, then we may lose a lot more services than what we expect,” Perrette said.

Purpera said a judge will hold a hearing on the matter and city leaders will be able to give input.

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