Will new school mean tax hike?

Published 12:17 am Sunday, May 22, 2016

NATCHEZ — Last month, Natchez-Adams School Board members said Natchez High School’s aging building could be replaced without raising taxes. But a district consultant said last week that variances in the district’s 16th section land revenues might complicate that plan.

After working with the district’s business office, Philip Russell with Volkert Inc., a Mobile, Ala., engineering consulting firm, went before the school board to let the interim superintendent and board of trustees know its financial consultant, Stifel Group, would be speaking to the auditor about the matter.

At a meeting last month, board member Phillip West reported that the Stifel Group had suggested the high school could be replaced without raising taxes.However, the issues that remains, Russell said, involve the 16th section land revenues — which dropped from $1.3 million to approximately $590,000 from 2014 to 2015 — and the start of new Governmental Accounting Standards Board rules concerning how pension plan liability is reported.Revenue from 16th section land sources also fluctuated in 2013, when income was approximately $980,000, and 2012, when it was approximately $670,000.

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Russell said fluctuations such as those experienced from 2014 to 2015 could impact bonding capacity, or the ability of the district to borrow money for the school building work.

“I want to drill down and make sure this is not something occurring every year,” he said. “I expect within a month, we will be able to give you a final report.”

Natchez accountant Wes Gore, with Silas Simmons, said the new GASB rules require government agencies to disclose liability of what the entity will owe in pensions going forward. He said it does not impact year-to-year operations.

One scenario for includes demolishing the majority of the school’s classrooms to build a two-story classroom facility. Another option discussed in December 2015 was building a new high school and using the current structure to consolidate some of the other schools in the district on one campus.

Renovations to Frazier Elementary School and the former Washington School are also being considered.

The Volkert group previously reported building a new high school was projected to cost $42 million, while renovating the school would cost approximately $23 million.

Renovating Frazier would cost $11 million, while renovating Washington School would cost $5 million.