Cleveland schools want tax increase for school improvements

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Aallyah Wright, Mississippi Today

Jamie Jacks, school board attorney of the Board of Trustees for the Cleveland School District

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect clarification given by the school board attorney on May 24 as to the tax increase impact for local homeowners and the total amount raised by the tax levy. 

CLEVELAND – The school district’s Board of Trustees approved a resolution of intent to raise taxes for school improvements at its regular school board meeting on Monday.

The property tax increase for the residents of the school district in Bolivar County is expected to raise about $1.8 million, said Board Attorney Jamie Jacks.

“For the 3 mill note, it is anticipated that taxes will not go up more than $11.00 per $100,000 worth of property,” Jacks noted in a release emailed on May 24. “In other words, if you have a $100,000.00 home, it is estimated you would see an $11 annual increase to your taxes or less than $1 per month.”

Jacks said the tax increase will move forward unless 20 percent or more of registered voters living in the school district object to the plan.

Jacks said although it is an increase in tax, it is not a bond issue, which automatically requires a vote.

School officials “were going try to do all the improvements with district funds like cash in hand, 16-section, and the other maintenance fund, but it was cutting it too close, and they didn’t want to deplete that when this is available to them,” Jacks said of the decision to increase the school tax. “And hopefully a pretty simple way of doing it.”

Jacks said the board estimated it will take $1.8 million to address the improvements.

“We did a resolution for $2.25 million because we wanted to give ourselves a little pad in the budget,” she said.

Funds from the tax increase will help to meet the American Disabilities Act requirement by adding things like an elevator in Cleveland Central High School, the new consolidated high school that will be housed at the former Cleveland High School, she said. Improving ramps and science labs are two more items the tax will cover, according to Jacks.

However, a community member and Cleveland resident has decided to create petitions to try to force this tax increase to a vote.

“I am deeply disturbed by this effort of the board to increase  our taxes when we are already being taxed the maximum 55 mils allowed by state law,” said Sherry Shepard.

“The board needs to examine its current spending practices and find ways to do what needs to be done within its current means. We will collect the necessary signatures to force this matter to a vote.”

There will be an advertisement in the local paper informing the town’s residents about the matter. If there are a sufficient amount of objectors, there will be a hearing in late May, said Jacks.