- Associated Press - Monday, February 13, 2017

BRANDON, Miss. (AP) - Rankin County voters will decide whether to raise property taxes to finance school improvements in a March 7 referendum.

The proposal would raise taxes by 5 mills, or $50 on a $100,000 house, financing up to $178.5 million in borrowing.

Voters in the school district, which covers all the county except the city of Pearl, roundly rejected a $170 million bond issue in 2011, with 60 percent of voters casting “no” votes. A bond referendum requires 60 percent “yes” votes.

Since that rejection, voters in 13 school districts statewide have approved bond issues, while voters in two others rejected bonds, according to Mississippi Department of Education records. Last week, nearly 80 percent of voters in Clarksdale approved an $8.5 million bond issue.

“The bond issue addresses the most critical needs in all 24 of our schools,” Rankin County School Board President Ann Sturdivant said. “I am hearing very little negative comments. People realize there’s a real need.”

The most expensive item on the district’s project list is a new Northwest Rankin High School, estimated to cost more than $42 million. The Clarion-Ledger (https://on.thec-l.com/2l7Lj0j) reports remaining funds would go toward new classrooms across the district.

Rankin Count Superintendent Sue Townsend said overcrowding is pushing more and more students into portable classrooms in Mississippi’s third-largest school district, with more than 19,000 students. Townsend said at a community meeting that she prefers classrooms to be a part of an enclosed building, so students would not have to walk to their classes in bad weather. The district has 99 portable classrooms, 30 of which are located in the Northwest Rankin High School zone.

The bond issue would also cover safety improvements with the purchase of new security cameras and fire alarms.

Many critics in 2011 faulted the inclusion of athletic facilities in the bond issue. The only athletic facility proposed this time is a football dressing room at Puckett High School, where players currently use locker rooms across a state highway from the football stadium.


Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, https://www.clarionledger.com

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