School bond hearings pushed to April 25

Published 1:01 am Thursday, February 15, 2018


NATCHEZ — Chancery Court Judge Vincent Davis issued a continuance Wednesday for the validation of approximately $34 million in school borrowing at the request of one of the objectors.

A telephone conference agreement Wednesday morning delayed the hearings, which were originally scheduled for 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. today.

Email newsletter signup

The hearings — now scheduled for April 25 — will allow for objections to two funding mechanisms the Natchez-Adams School District plans to use in order to build a new high school and renovate several other school buildings.

The district aims to borrow $9 million in bonds, backed by a tax increase to Adams County residents. They district also plans to raise $25 million through a lease agreement in which the school buildings are used as a form of collateral.

Adams County resident and business owner Kevin Wilson, who filed several lengthy objections through his attorney Paul Koerber, requested the continuance so he could gather more evidence for his case.

Davis, Koerber and attorneys representing the Natchez-Adams School Board agreed to move the hearing in order to allow more limited discovery for both parties.

On Feb. 9, before requesting a continuance, Wilson subpoenaed several local leaders and employees of the school district.

Among those subpoenaed include: Adams County supervisors, Mike Lazarus, Ricky Gray and David Carter; Adams County Circuit Court Clerk Eddie Walker; Adams County Election Commissioner Larry Gardner; school board members Phillip West, Thelma Newsome, Brenda Robinson and Amos James; school district employees Superintendent Fred Butcher, Deputy Superintendent Zandra McDonald, Business and Finance Manager Monica Anderson; and Natchez-Adams Leasing Authority, Inc. incorporator, David Watkins.

Each was called to appear and testify before the court.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood filed a motion to intervene, which was granted by the court, giving him leave to respond to Wilson’s objections.

Wilson objected to case no. 2017-0726 — in which the school board requests validation for trust certificates not exceeding $25 million for the land trust certificates — on the basis that the process by which the lease agreement was approved was not legal.

A secondary argument Wilson used against the $25 million lease agreement was that the school district was employing “misleading and deceptive actions.”

Wilson also objected to 2017-0727 — the $9 million tax notes — on the argument that the notes were not applied for legally and that the tax notes violate state laws and the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Hood’s response refuted these claims, saying Wilson’s argument “fails as a matter of law.”

Attorneys for the school district also submitted a rebuttal to Wilson’s objection, in which the lawyers argued for the legality of the process by which the district applied for the lease agreements and the tax notes.

The hearing for both issuances is set for 9 a.m., April 25 at the Adams County Courthouse.