NASD to reconsider options after bond issue vote fails

Published 1:32 am Thursday, May 25, 2017

NATCHEZ — One day removed from a failed bond issue vote Natchez-Adams School Board members said Wednesday they plan to consider the future of its school building program at a later date.

Superintendent Fred Butcher said emotions are high the day after losing the election and he plans to have future conversations with board members about how they would like to proceed at a future date.

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On Tuesday, the majority of Adams County voters rejected the school district’s $35 million bond issue.

The Natchez-Adams School District sought approval of the bond referendum to help pay for a building program. The plan was to build a new high school, and renovate Natchez High School, Morgantown Middle School and McLaurin Elementary School.

Approving the $35 million bond issue would have raised local taxes.

The estimated cost of the district’s total building program was approximately $44 million. Approximately $10 million would have been funded through retiring debt, which would have been paid for with no new taxes.

Butcher said he could bring the issue back up as early as the board’s June regularly scheduled meeting, but he might also delay.

“We are very disappointed it was not successful,” Butcher said. “I think in life, you have to look on the bright side of most things. We have a lot of public support out there.”

A total of 3,004 people voted for the bond measure, which was approximately 49 percent of voters.

School board President Amos James said Wednesday he would shift his focus to the upcoming school year.

“Whenever they bring it back up, we will discuss it and I will make my decision then,” James said. “At this time I will concentrate more on getting ready for the next school year.”

School Board member Brenda Robinson said she was interested in seeing what plan Butcher brought to the board. If she believed the plan would move the district forward, Robinson said she would support it.

“Anytime you can improve education, it is important,” she said “Education is important because right now, if a child does not have it, he or she cannot be successful in today’s society.”

Robinson said whether the district gets updated schools or not, the board has to continue to improve the system for the children.

“Either way, I am focusing on the kids,” Robinson said. “I have seen what Mr. Butcher has put in place, and I do think we will be more successful in the grades we receive.”

Board secretary Thelma Newsome said she agreed with Butcher’s plan to bring the building program up at a later date.

“I think right now, everyone is just kind of getting over losing the vote yesterday,” she said Wednesday. “We did not go into details.”

Newsome said, however, that she does not want the district to put off addressing its facility needs forever, but she did not set a timeline at this point.

“I am really hoping at some point in time we get these schools built,” she said. “They are desperately needed.”

School Board member Phillip West said Wednesday he does not know what the next step is, but he is looking forward to the discussion.

“This is more important than anything else we are doing,” West said. “It impacts the future of our academics and everything involved in education. I will continue to think about it. At some point, I hope we come up with something that may lead to a resolution.”

West, a former Natchez mayor, has been a vocal proponent of updating the schools and has said it is one of the top issues with which the community will have to deal going forward because an improved public school district could lead to less crime, higher property values and improved business and industry prospects.

Following Cynthia Smith’s resignation for health reasons, the board only has four members until the Adams County Board of Supervisors appoint someone. Key Rehab physical therapist Reneé Wall and Alcorn State University professor Dianne Bunch recently interviewed for the appointment.