Mayor: Hattiesburg school facilities 'need help now'

Mayor: Hattiesburg school facilities 'need help now'
City officials are asking Hattiesburg residents to approve a bond renewal to improve aging school facilities. (Photo source: WDAM)

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - City leaders are hoping residents can help with improvements to the aging facilities in the Hattiesburg Public School District.

Mayor Toby Barker and Superintendent Dr. Robert Williams held a joint announcement Monday morning at the district's main office to propose the approval for a bond renewal this year.

"We are no longer at a point where we can punt this down the road. Our local school facilities need help and they need help now," said Barker.

In 2001, voters approved a renewal of $15 million in school bonds in a special election. The funding went to a number of projects, including converting Rowan Center into an elementary school, adding a wing to Hattiesburg High School and renovating or enlarging the majority of the district's 10 schools. That bond will expire this year.

"We are asking the voters of Hattiesburg, particularly those in the Hattiesburg Public School District, to keep their taxes the same, just as they are now," said Barker. "By approving a bond renewal at the same millage rate, we believe we can generate around $22 million, and that's a conservative estimate. Again, that's with no tax increase."

The Hattiesburg Public School District Board of Trustees will have the final say on what is asked for when it adopts a formal resolution in the coming weeks. Barker said a tax increase is not anticipated.

The renewal election will require 60 percent approval of registered voters.

"These funds will be used to make long overdue capital improvements, but more so, to invest in our children and let them know that we as a community believe in them and know that our city's destiny, and our school district's destiny, are one," Barker said.

An open presentation regarding the district's facility need will be held tonight at 5:30 p.m. at Thames Elementary School Auditorium.

A list of facility projects and a board resolution may be on the agenda as early as the March 6 school board meeting.