The Caledonia board of alderman were addressed Tuesday by Lowndes County School District officials, who wanted to convince the town to buy into the proposed $44 million bond issue being voted on Tuesday.
Superintendent Lynn Wright and assistant superintendent Robin Ballard presented the bond issue to the board. LCSD school board members Jane Kilgore and Brian Clark were also present at the meeting. Convincing Caledonia to vote yes on the bond has been a focus for LCSD, as the lion’s share of the bond money is going toward a new high school in New Hope.
If passed, the bond will include: $11 million for a centralized career-technical center; $26 million for a new high school on the New Hope campus; $3 million for upgrades and additions at the Caledonia campus; $1.9 million for a new field house at Caledonia; and $2.1 million for renovations on the West Lowndes campus.
“Throughout this process, we’ve heard our criticisms and we’ve tried to address those and hopefully this information is enough to clear up any misunderstandings or criticisms you may have,” Ballard said.
She told the board that traditionally the district has made their construction projects in short succession. A period between 1965 and 1980 — during which the district experienced the most growth — saw no buildings constructed. LCSD says 2,020 of their 5,100 students are in buildings 55-60 years old. Wright told the aldermen 50 years is the life expectancy of a school building.
Wright and Ballard pointed out that Tupelo had a $47 million bond issue that passed with 85 percent of the vote this month.
For the LCSD bond issue to pass, 60 percent must vote for it. Any registered voter who lives in a portion of Lowndes County served by the county school district is eligible to vote.
The career-technical center was a major focus during the 20 minute LCSD presentation. LCSD is one of three Mississippi districts that does not have a centralized career-tech building.
“We met with the state superintendent in Jackson today; the emphasis was on career-tech and early childhood education,” Wright said.
When asked about where the new career-tech center would be located, Wright said they are looking at lots near the Columbus Nissan dealership.
Alderman questioned how the bond would be paid and what the time period for payment was. LCSD will pay off the bond with money coming from businesses in Lowndes County who have taken advantage of fee-in-lieu taxes for the past decade, but who will be paying their full contribution next year.
Lowndes County Tax Assessor Greg Andrews told The Dispatch last week the bond would be paid off in $3 million payments over 18 years, but Wright told the aldermen it could be a quicker process.
“With the revenue we have coming in, we could pay it off in ten years,” Wright said.
In other matters
The new community center in Caledonia, expected to be completed in late June, will serve as the new voting precinct beginning with the August election, replacing town hall. Mayor Bill Lawrence said it will be an improvement for residents.
Caledonia will be spraying for mosquitoes Thursday. The board unanimously approved the one-time, $40 bug treatment.
Lawrence asked the board to consider banning pets at Caledonia’s park. He has received complaints of too many dog droppings and dogs being off leashes. The alderman did not come to any decision on the matter, with alderman Mitch Wiggins questioning how such a policy could truly be enforced.