16th section assistance on tap

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, July 27, 2016

HELPFUL SERVICES: Kelly McMullan with the Secretary of State’s Office shared some services that their office offers to school districts to help them make the most of 16th section leases.  Photo by Jeremy Pittari

HELPFUL SERVICES: Kelly McMullan with the Secretary of State’s Office shared some services that their office offers to school districts to help them make the most of 16th section leases.
Photo by Jeremy Pittari

Members of the Picayune Separate Municipal School District Board of Trustees tackled a variety of matters during Tuesday’s meeting.
Kelly McMullan, a public lands attorney for the Secretary of State’s Office, spoke to members of the Board about 16th section land and how their office can assist school districts.
To start, he said that Picayune’s school district seems to be renting out their 16th section land at a rate of $10 per acre and that there appeared to no discrepancies with their records. The statewide average is about $12 an acre. Typically the best rates are earned when a bidding war takes place, especially for hunting and fishing land, McMullan said.
Assistance with forming leases and implementing the best management practices is offered through the Secretary of State’s Office. McMullan said their office is currently developing computer software that will help school districts manage their 16th section land more easily.
As for how a district would determine the fair market value, which lets them determine the proper amount of rent to charge, McMullan said districts have some leeway. They can either use their local tax assessor’s assessment value, or have an independent appraiser form one for them. Once the value is determined, the district can charge no less than 5 percent of the fair market value to rent the property.
In a separate matter, the Board discussed unemployment claims from the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. Board member Frank Ford asked if the administration keeps a paper trail before terminating someone’s employment to avoid claims being filed. Assistant Superintendent Brent Harrell said they do, and also file objections when claims are reported. District Finance Director Lisa Persick said the most recent claims entail $1,645 from the maintenance department and $470 from one of the elementary schools. The school district reimburses MDES when claims are approved.
During discussion of the budget, Feeley asked about the $146,000 increase approved by the Board recently. Persick said the Board approved that increase, with the stipulation the matter would be revisited sometime in August. She added that once an amount is requested by the district, it is sent to the county and city, who sets the millage. Feeley said he intends to set a final budget amount that is exactly the same as last year’s during that meeting in August, meaning there should not be a tax increase.
Persick also updated the Board about the district’s cash flow. She said it has increased from $4.6 million last year to $5.7 million this year.
Discussion about the replacement of Pride of the Tide uniforms revealed an equipment failure is why they need to be replaced a year early. Harrell said the district had been replacing the uniforms every three years, but a recent air conditioning outage occurred in the building where they were being stored. Harrell said the air conditioning to the NJROTC building recently stopped working. Since no one has been using the buidling, the problem was not noticed in time to save the uniforms. Feeley and Board member Lori Blackmer both agreed that the district should move to a four-year cycle to make up for the premature $7,150 expense to replace them. That motion was approved.
In another matter, the Board decided not to take any action on the proposed rezoning for Nicholson Elementary and Roseland Park Elementary. Feeley said the matter has been tabled in definitely and there are no plans to approve the change this year.
The proposed rezoning would have shifted students between three schools, Roseland Park, Nicholson and South Side.
The Board will hold a special meeting on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. to address a finance matter.

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