PRC School District holds community meeting, discusses $17 M bond

Published 7:00 am Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Pearl River County School District held a community meeting Thursday night to discuss an upcoming $17 million bond election.
Superintendent Alan Lumpkin opened the meeting by saying he is ready to invest in the future of the district and its students.
On March 7, an election will be held at the storm shelter on the Carriere campus where residents of the Pearl River County School District will vote on a $17 million bond that would fund the construction of classrooms, a performing arts center, a central office building, restrooms and concession stands at the football stadium and repair and renovate existing classrooms.
With 200 additional students added to the district this year, Lumpkin said the school is growing as more residents move to the district seeking its quality education.
After Hurricane Katrina, mobile classrooms were added to the district’s campuses, Lumpkin said.
“We have to get past Hurricane Katrina,” he said. “As long as students are in portable units, we’re still feeling the effects.”
The proposed performing arts building on the Carriere campus would house 17 new classrooms with a possible focus on science, technology, engineering and math. By renovating classrooms and building new ones at the McNeill and Carriere campuses, the bond would allow for approximately 1,300 additional students in 43 new classrooms, Lumpkin said.
If passed, the bond would add 6 mills to the district’s tax rate, after previous bonds roll off. The actual increase is 11 to 12 mills.
Lumpkin equated this to an increase of $6 a month for a home assessed at $100,000, or $1 a month for a mobile home, vehicle or land worth $10,000.
Property owners 65 years or older qualify for homestead exemption, making their increased monthly contribution $1.45 for a home valued at $100,000, Lumpkin said.
“The cost is the equivalent of a bag of chips and a coke a week. That’s not a lot of money to ask to get these facilities,” Mark Glorioso, executive director of NASA’s shared services center and a community member who has advocated for the bond issue since September, said. “These facilities show parental support.”
Before turning the floor over to questions, Lumpkin said the 2016 per pupil expenditure for the district—representing taxpayers’ return on their investment—was $8,908, placing them in the bottom 25 percent of districts across the state.
Yet, the district consistently ranks in the top 25 percent of performance scores statewide, he said.
Questions from the audience included absentee ballots—available at the Pearl River County Circuit Clerk’s office—when work would begin, whether voters were presented with enough information to make a decision, other district expenditures, the possibility of building a new school and projected growth.
Lumpkin said architects and planners are standing by to begin preparation for construction on March 8, if passed. In previous failed bond proposals, detailed architectural plans were drafted before the election, costing the district $30,000, an expense Lumpkin said he could not risk if the bond didn’t pass this time.
The construction of a new elementary school isn’t feasible with the current operating budget, Lumpkin said, though they did consider the option.
Some members of the audience asked why the performing arts facility was listed as the second highest priority, rather than other areas of education.
“Our performing arts students are recognized on a national level,”
Bradley Booth, a senior at Pearl River Central, said. “We want a space to say we have world class performing talents right here and want to showcase them to you.”
“Performing arts kids get a lot of higher education money through scholarships,” Glorioso said, whose son participated in performing arts programs and received a two-year scholarship to PRCC to study engineering.
“On March [7] it’s going to pass or it’s going to fail. If it fails we’re going to open those doors and we’re going to love kids, we’re going to teach kids. We’ll bring in more trailers if we have to,” Lumpkin said.
A copy of the official ballot and more information on the bond election are available at the Pearl River County School District Facebook page. For more information, call the district office at 601-798-7744.

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About Julia Arenstam

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