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State Senate passes bill to elect Natchez-Adams school board
from Staff Reports - NEWS
February 1, 2018 - ListenUpYall.com

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. –  The push to transform the Natchez-Adams school board into an elected body has gained the support of the state Senate. This comes as local taxpayers’ objections pile up against the currently appointed board’s multimillion-dollar school construction plan.

The Senate passed a bill Wednesday to let Natchez-Adams County voters elect five school board members beginning 2019 to four-year terms. Senate Bill 2003 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Current state law has the five school trustees appointed by the Natchez Board of Aldermen and Adams County Board of Supervisors (three by the city and two by the county). However, the city and county boards have asked the Mississippi Legislature to change the law so school board members can be popularly elected.

The Senate-passed bill, if enacted into law, would have candidates for the new Natchez-Adams County school board on the November 2019 ballot to be elected from the same five districts that county supervisors are from. Natchez aldermen and Adams County supervisors for the past few years have been asking the Mississippi Legislature for this, but such a bill has never passed the House and Senate.

This year’s legislation comes as the current school board is advancing plans to fund a school-construction plan that has encountered much resistance. Natchez-Adams County voters last May voted down a $45 million building proposition partially paid for by a property tax increase.

After the referendum, the school board moved forward anyway with a downsized plan using alternative financial sources now being considered in court.

An Adams County chancery judge is reviewing objections filed against the $34 million tax-and-lease bond package the Natchez-Adams School District Board of Trustees is seeking to have validated in court. Nearly 1,000 written objections have reportedly been filed against it.
NASD officials are planning a new high school that’s been estimated to cost about $23 million to build. It’s to replace the current facility that was built in 1961. It’s considered outdated and in need of millions of dollars for renovations.

The school district is to use land known as the “bean field” by the old Natchez High School on Seargent Prentiss Drive. The Natchez Board of Aldermen voted in October to let the new high school occupy the city-owned property.

Natchez-Adams County voters last May rejected the school board’s plan to build the new high school and renovate other schools for a total cost of about $45 million. It was turned down by a 3,142 to 3,004 vote.
 
The school-building debate has divided the community along racial lines.
 
Most of the votes last year against the construction plan came from the county’s mostly white precincts, according to the referendum results. About 90 percent of the Natchez-Adams school system’s nearly 3,500 students are black, according to the Mississippi Department of Education. Most white residents in the Natchez-Adams School District send their children to private schools but still pay public school taxes.



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