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School board deals with high property assessments

REVIEWING THE FACTS: Picayune School Board members Frank Feely and Dr. Lori Blackmer look over documentation during Tuesday’s meeting. Photo by Jeremy Pittari

REVIEWING THE FACTS: Picayune School Board members Frank Feely and Dr. Lori Blackmer look over documentation during Tuesday’s meeting.
Photo by Jeremy Pittari

Higher than usual property assessments may leave the Picayune Separate Municipal School District without renters on 16th section land.
During Tuesday’s meeting Finance Director Lisa Penton informed the board of trustees that assessments on some of the 16th section land the district owns has increased substantially, forcing the district to increase their rent, in some instances by as much as four times.
One piece of property that was pulling in about $600 a month in rent, was increased to $1,800 a month, causing the renter to reconsider continuance of occupancy.
Penton said the district is mandated by law to hire an appraiser annually to reappraise the value of their property. Board attorney Gerald Patch said the rules are mandated by the Secretary of State’s Office.
Board members Frank Ford and Frank Feeley felt the increases in rent will eventually force all of the renters out.
“We’re going to price ourselves right out of the market,” Feeley said.
Assistant Superintendent Brent Harrell said Picayune’s is not he only district facing this problem.
Penton said there may be a way the district can charge less in rent, but she would have to bring back additional information at the next meeting.
The board approved a motion to table the matters concerning increased rent, but approved motions to move forward with cancellations on contacts where rent is past due.
Work on phase I of the baseball field drainage project is showing results.
Athletic Director Walt Esslinger said the work is already providing an improvement to the field’s condition by helping it drain water more effectively.
The board also heard about a program that could help lower the district’s electricity bill.
Superintendent Dean Shaw said a company by the name of CLEAResult can conduct an energy audit to determine if the district would qualify for up to $50,000 in grant funds that could be used to update the district’s aging heating and cooling systems.
The board approved sending the letter of intent to have the audit conducted.
In other news, Nicholson Elementary has qualified to receive at least $20,000 in Samsung technology through the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest. According to an email sent to Nicholson Elementary teacher Marueen Pollitz, their entry was chosen based off their approach in advancing STEM education.
The school will now advance to the national competition where they will create a two to three minute video describing their lesson plan.
If they advance further in the contest, the school could receive up to $120,000 in technology from the company.
The Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation provided the district with three sets of grant funds. During the meeting the board approved acceptance of the three grants from the organization. One is to Nicholson Elementary totaling $2,851 for test writing success, another is for the Picayune Memorial High School English II program to help with advance writing skills, and the last totals $19,442 and will help the district prepare for common care.
The next board meeting will be at noon on Jan. 27.