Bossier Parish is historically referred to as “The Free State of Bossier.” This week the Bossier Parish School Board with the help of a friendly judge tried to put another star on the seal of their “Free” state, but they may still have to earn it. The decision of Bossier District Judge Jeff Cox to approve the April tax election was not unexpected, and Attorney John Settle has already filed a challenge to the decision. Settle said, “I believe that the integrity of the governmental process is critical , and that the actions of the BPSB not only betrayed the voters of Bossier Parish but also resulted in the passage of this bond issue.” Settle indicated that the case could be heard as early as next week.
Settle’s appeal lies in many issues, but the challenge is primarily based on a desire to ferret out the truth concerning the manipulation of Bossier citizens by those in power.
Bossier District Judge Jeff Cox found no reason to overturn the April results, nor did he find that the district misrepresented information provided to voters. Cox also refused to recuse himself from the case, however he did describe his relationship to the parties of the school board. Cox wrote, “I know Mr. Mosura (a primary participant of the board). He goes to church with me… Jason Smith, … architectural part of the bond election is in my Sunday school class. And I am the Sunday school teacher in that (class)… My wife has worked for the Bossier Parish School Board in the past. Mr. Bill Kostelka was in Rotary with me and has served on the school board in a prior period and his partner does my financial disclosures for the state. And I as an assistant district attorney … served as an attorney for the school board.”
Facts in evidence that may not bear on the civil matter before the court involve marketing and media materials being managed by the paid marketing representative of the school board, Sonja Bailes. Records indicate that checks were all coordinated through her office and website marketing was totally managed through the school board to reflect that all Bossier Schools would profess “VOTE YES!” a clear violation of State law.
Additionally, Bailes $100,000+ annual compensation package allows Bossier School to claim they have one of the “Top” marketing executives and spokespersons in Louisiana. She planned almost $6,000 in billboards for the campaign and managed the fund raising to pay for it.
All this goes only to the validity of the election, but “Wait, There’s More!” The truth in advertising as to the “Renewal” of the tax and the previous tax collections of the parish for “School Funding” should have taxpayers enraged.
The fact that the last bond election was for a 20-year building program and yet it was paid off in eight years can be attributed to the overpayment by taxpayers due to the increase in property value and the fact that rather than rolling back millage, the parish collected the excess above the election amount and applied it to pay off the bonds early. To some this may be considered smart management, unless you were a taxpayer who had increased taxes and no voice in the decision to assess or pay the tax.
Then, there is the fact that taxpayers were not told the truth about the fact that their taxes will go up, not in millage, but when the property is reassessed, the payment will be at the same millage on a higher value. You get to pay more so that the system can have more. Issues of the charges actually being criminal rater than the civil charges as brought are also under review. Judge Cox and the board’s attorney stated that these were not decisions before the court at this time. We certainly do not expect the Bossier District Attorney to address these issues, not in the Free State of Bossier. Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell may be handling this investigation at a future date.
Things just don’t seem fair for the taxpayer or average citizen. We can only blame ourselves for not being engaged citizens who learn issues and speak out against the injustices around us. So citizens, “Welcome to the Free State of Bossier!”