School board gets lesson on bond issue

Published 3:37 pm Wednesday, September 11, 2013

By Karen Sanford

Editor Prentiss Headlight

What a bond issue entails and how a school can use one to raise money was a topic of discussion at Monday night’s school board meeting.

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Jim Young of Young Law Group in Jackson appeared before the board to speak as an expert on the procedure for issuing school bonds.

“Our firm specializes in school financing having worked with two-thirds of the schools in the state of Mississippi,” said Young.

The proposed consolidation of Bassfield and Prentiss schools into one “Jeff Davis Central School” has been a theme mentioned in nearly every public appearance by Superintendent Ike Haynes, who describes the plan as an investment in the future of the children of Jeff Davis County.

“We¬† have to educate our children,” says Haynes who cites aging facilities and declining enrollment as two major reasons for consolidation.

Young explained a bond issue would be the best option for financing the building of a centralized school in the county. Sixty percent of the voters would need to favor the measure for it to pass.

The bond issue is limited to 15 percent of the county’s assessed valuation. The debt limit, according to Young, that could be supported by the school district would be in the range of $12 million to 12.5 million dollars.

“The good thing is, interest rates are still low and you would be able to pay it back in 20 years,” said Young.

Young explained there are important steps the board must take to ensure success of the bond issue. “Your entire board needs to be all in. You can’t have one person not on board.”

The community must buy into the idea and want it and see the benefit. This can be achieved by holding public hearings. “The public wants to know why it’s necessary and how it’s going to benefit everybody,” said Young who explained the most important step is to actually get out the vote.

“Simpson and Holmes Counties recently failed,” said Young. “The closer you can get to no tax increase, the better chance you will have. You may fail. Brookhaven, Laurel…both failed. It took them a time or two but they got it passed.”

After the board meeting, Hayes explained that the original plan of a $23 million facility may not be attainable. “I had not met with Jim to find out our tax base. We have to construct a building that can suit our borrowing capacity,” said Haynes. “We can still build a first-class school, we just may have to wait on the first-class sporting facility.”