- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 23, 2018

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) - Leaders of the two largest cities on the Mississippi Gulf Coast question plans by a school district to borrow $55 million to build and remodel schools.

The Biloxi and Gulfport city councils voted last week to ask the Harrison County school district to delay its bond referendum, scheduled for Nov. 6. The district is asking voters to approve a plan to build two new schools, renovate a third, and increase security at other schools. The district says no increase in taxes will be needed because a previous bond issue has been paid off, but the approval of 60 percent of those voting is still required.

Harrison County Superintendent Roy Gill rejected the call to remove the issue from the ballot, saying that the number of students in the district has risen by more than 2,000 in the past 10 years and that new schools will take years to build. The district plans to chip in $16 million to reduce borrowing and prevent a tax increase.

The district serves many students in northern Biloxi and Gulfport, although those cities operate their own school systems for students farther south.

Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich told The Sun Herald he thinks students in northern areas that Biloxi annexed in 1999 should attend city schools. He said residents in the Biloxi school district pay lower taxes for schools than those in the Harrison County district.

Gill said the state Supreme Court has ruled that school district lines don’t change when cities annex new territory.

Gulfport Councilman R. Lee Flowers said his city doesn’t oppose improvement plans, but thinks the district should have sought more input.

He said some Gulfport parents are upset that new schools are planned for students in kindergarten through eighth grade, while their children will continue attending 51-year-old Harrison Central High School.

“We have some concerns and questions about what the plans are,” Flowers said. “Is it the best plan for the community? I don’t know.”

Seven district schools are in the Gulfport city limits and Flowers said the City Council got involved because 40 percent of Harrison County students live within the Gulfport city limits.


Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com

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