HPSD prepares after bond renewal vote, Jeff. Davis County District waits

Proposed improvements to Jefferson Davis County High School
Proposed improvements to Jefferson Davis County High School((Photo source: Jefferson Davis County High School))
Updated: Aug. 30, 2018 at 8:49 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Hattiesburg Public School District is preparing to move ahead with facility improvements three months after voters approved a bond renewal that extends a tax levy already in place.

Ninety-four percent of people casting ballots said yes to the proposal in the May referendum, a stunningly high number, and in fact one of the highest ever recorded in any school bond election in the whole state.

City leaders backed it from the beginning.

"This particular bond issue is really a no-brainer," said Council President Carter Carroll before the vote.

And there was never any outspoken opposition.

“It really spoke to the confidence that the public not only has in the Hattiesburg Public School District, but also the value that the city of Hattiesburg places on education,” HPSD Superintendent Robert Williams said.

Now the school district can depend on a revenue stream, over $22 million, to carry out renovations and repairs, many of those at Hattiesburg High and N.R. Burger Middle School.

“Currently, we’re in the process of identifying and selecting an architect,” Williams said. “Once an architect is selected, then we will start going back out into the community receiving feedback from the teachers and parents about the projects.”

He said getting feedback will be important to the process.

While Hattiesburg moves forward, the Jefferson Davis County School District awaits the verdict of its voters in a special election September 4. They’ll approve or reject a $14 million bond issue for the construction of a new high school.

“The schools are old, and it’s just time to upgrade,” Superintendent Will Russell said in June. “I just feel like our students deserve a better environment."

Getting to the required 60 percent majority is difficult for any bond issue, and this one could face an uphill climb. The Jefferson Davis County board of supervisors went on record opposing it. And public reaction has been sharply divided.

"Our children need it and we have to make a sacrifice," said one resident at a community meeting earlier this month.

“We just can’t afford it at the time, too much taxes. It’s going to be a great hindrance,” another person said.

We’ll find out next Tuesday night which of those opinions prevails.

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