Bolivar County Circuit Clerk Marilyn Kelly has completed certifying signatures on a petition opposing a proposed tax increase within the Cleveland School District.
A total of 2,848 signatures were submitted for validation and 2,058 signatures were confirmed as qualified electors in the school district.
Kelly reported late Wednesday afternoon in a press release that her office was unable to certify 790 signatures for a variety of reasons including: Petitioner not registered to vote in Bolivar County; Petitioner lives outside of Cleveland School District; Petitioner did not sign / did not complete the petition; Petitioner’s signature / printed name too illegible to ascertain; and Petitioner’s name has multiple matches / no address match to ascertain.
In the release, Kelly said, “All names on the petition forms were reviewed and included in the total count with the exception of names that appear to be scratched-through and/or erased. This petition certification will be submitted back to the CSD Representative, Cindy Holtz, who hand-carried the submission to the Circuit Clerk’s Office. … All questions regarding this petition and any appeal process should be directed to the Cleveland School District.”
Monday the Cleveland School District Board of Trustees examined the 190 pages of the petition and discovered 159 duplicate names.
School district attorney Jamie Jacks said those who signed the petition more than once would have 10 days to come forward and present information to determine their signatures are not duplicated.
Because the petitions were not verified before Monday’s meeting, the board recessed until June 30, at which time the board will make a decision on whether enough signatures have been submitted to have an election on the tax increase that is needed to make school improvements.
Though 3 mills is the highest the school district may request, Jacks has said the board is expecting to only ask for a 1.13 increase.
“The statute allows for up to 3 mills, but the district only intends to increase the mills by approximately 1.13 mills,” said Jacks.
“If the district wanted to go back and do more projects later, it would have to go through this same process — advertising the 3 mil and then wait for petitions objecting to it — before it could raise additional funds using the remaining mills.
“For now, the schedule shows that 1.51 mills were levied by the city last year for a three mill notes. Based on this millage rate, we estimate a new note for 12 years would increase the mills by approximately 1.13 mills.
“The district would likely use the 12 year pay back. This means on a $100,000 owner-occupied house, a 1.13 mill increase would cost about $11 per year. This calculation does not include the tax that would be due on automobiles or on non-residential real property,” said Jacks.
She said the district plans to use the money “for a renovation of the science lab at CCHS, a 10 car canopy built at CCMS, an elevator at CCHS as well as other numerous projects/construction/renovations required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. This will include work to the restrooms, entrances and exists and other features of the buildings to make sure our buildings are accessible to all.”
Jacks said if an increased tax is not approved school district Business Manager Cindy Holtz has told the trustees she believes funds for the ADA improvements could from come existing 16th section funds and district maintenance funds.
The ADA improvements are required by law, and according to Jacks, taking money from these funds would significantly deplete the district’s savings.
“The board decided to pursue the 3 mil so as to not exhaust its savings. Unlike many other school districts, the CSD has maintained a healthy reserve for emergency situations. The district has not been fully funded by the legislature’s own MAEP formula in years. Thankfully, the district has had its reserves to fall back on when the legislature has cut the district time and again.
“However, there simply is not extra money in the budget to perform these large scale renovations. This is why the board felt the 3 mil was the best way to go – at a cost of less than a $1 a month to the average taxpayer, the district could start refurbishing our buildings and make sure our buildings are accessible to everyone in our community.”
The Bolivar Commercial will continue to supply updates on this issue.