CLEVELAND – The Cleveland School District Board of Trustees received petitions at a special called meeting Tuesday seeking to force a public referendum on a proposed tax increase to fund school improvements.

Cindy Holtz, business manager for the district, and Sherry Shepard, community member and activist, counted 196 pages of petitions, but they did not have a total number of signatures.

“Some of these are completely filled out and some are not,” said Holtz.

Board Attorney Jamie Jacks said the district will have to obtain a list of registered voters in the district from the city clerk and verify that the signatures on the petitions are registered voters.

Jacks said at the board’s regular meeting scheduled on June 12, they can report back on the verification of signatures.

The tax increase will move forward unless 20 percent or more of registered voters living in the school district object to the plan. The district approved a resolution of intent to raise taxes for school improvements during a regular board meeting on May 9.

Once the district approved the resolution, Shepard held community meetings and passed out petitions to try to get a sufficient number of voters to force a referendum.

It is estimated that annual individual taxes will not increase more than $11 dollars per $100,000 dollars worth of property, Jacks said in the statement.

“In other words, if you have a one-hundred thousand dollar home, it is estimated you see an $11 annual increase to your taxes,” she said.

Aallyah Wright is a native of Clarksdale, and was a Mississippi Delta reporter covering education and local government. She was also a weekly news co-host on WROX Radio (97.5 FM) and collaborator with StoryWorks/Reveal Labs from the Center for Investigative Reporting. Aallyah has a bachelor’s in journalism with minors in communications and theater from Delta State University. She is a 2018 Educating Children in Mississippi Fellow at the Hechinger Report, and co-founder of the Mississippi Delta Public Newsroom.