Come to chancery court hearing on school bonds

Published 12:15 am Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Now is the time for all Natchez-Adams County residents to stand up for their democratic rights!

At 9 a.m. Wednesday, there will be a hearing in chancery court for validation to obligate the taxpayers for a total of $34 million for the Natchez-Adams County School District to build a new school and renovate others. The notice for the hearing was in small print in the classified ad section of the newspaper last Tuesday, so if you missed it, that was probably the idea. It is imperative that concerned citizens attend this meeting and voice their objections to this blatant attempt of our school board to do an end run around the express wishes of the voters of our community.

At a time when Natchez has many financial challenges due to declining population, downturn in the oil industry, and the departure of most industry, etc., we need to be very careful about obligating this community to such huge debt.  The Natchez-Adams County School District seems to want to disregard the concerns of the taxpayers and overturn the mandate it was given by the voters in the special election held last summer.

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In the past, our unelected school board has proven to be a poor steward of our tax money, and now it wishes to take away any control the voters have had. Just this past May, the board spent $55,000 to hold the special election to have its proposal of a new school and funding approved.  When the voters denied that proposal, the board moved ahead anyway. If it was going to proceed anyway, why spend $55,000?  Before the election was even held, it had already spent $369,000 with an architectural firm for plans that it only got one bid on!  By contracting with that firm, the school district obligated the taxpayers to spend an additional $2.5 million with the firm if the plans are used. Those two expenditures (the $55,000 and $369,000) combined are mostly what caused the board to have to go into the “rainy day fund” in August of 2017 to cover the $575,000 budget deficit for the first quarter of the school year.

Another example of the board’s lack of good judgment that cost of the taxpayer is its decision a few years ago not to settle out of court in a federal lawsuit filed by Cindy Idom for discrimination against the board and Dr. Hill, the former superintendent.  Ms. Idom and the school district’s insurance company agreed to settle for $200,000.  The board refused to settle and consequently went to court and lost the case. Ms. Idom was awarded $650,000 in damages, and the district and the taxpayers were then on the hook for most of the rest. Do we really want this unelected board, with its history of fiscal irresponsibility, it arrogance and disrespect for the will of the voters of our community, to now have control over an additional $34 million? We must put a stop to this nonsense NOW!

Regardless if you voted for or against the new school proposal last May, we certainly can all agree that denying the expressed wishes of the electorate is an injustice. And so, if we are responsible citizens, we should not quietly sit by and let the borrowing of such a large sum of money happen. Complaining about the woes of our community will solve nothing. We must act. If at all possible, please attend the hearing at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the courthouse and bring your written objection with you.  If you are unable to attend, please write your objection and take it to the chancery clerk’s office today to be filed.

This is extremely important. If there are written and filed objections, the judge can decide to hold another hearing within 10 days to review those objections. So please do whatever you can to show that you care about the future of our small, but very special, community.
Marcia McCullough is a Natchez resident.