Notice law not adequate

Published 12:09 am Friday, July 28, 2017

The public’s business should be done in public. Period.

But that cannot occur if the public is in the dark on when and where public matters will be discussed.

Unfortunately, earlier this week, the public’s business —including a decision to raise taxes — was done in a way that almost guaranteed the public would not know about it until it was too late to be involved in the process.

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On Wednesday, the Natchez-Adams School Board met briefly and agreed to borrow $9 million that will force a tax increase on all county taxpayers.

The school district sent out a notice of the meeting and, presumably, placed the obligatory notice on its website, just three hours and 33 minutes prior to the 11 a.m. meeting.

Since most residents do not routinely check the school’s website, even those with high interest in attending the meeting likely would not have been aware of it in time to attend.

Even if a resident was made aware of the meeting or stumbled on it, the likelihood that the person had the flexibility to drop everything to make it to the meeting seems slim at best.

A new law passed by the Legislature mandates public agencies provide a whopping one-hour notice before a specially called meeting. So the Natchez-Adams School Board more than tripled the required notice, yet still few, if any, residents were actually made aware.

When government agencies use the state’s weak public meetings laws to circumvent public access, no one wins.

Next year, we hope state lawmakers will reconsider the length of time required to communicate such meetings to the public so all can be more aware, more transparent and more involved in public matters, particularly spending the public’s money.