SCHOOL FUNDING LAWSUIT
14 Miss. school districts sue over underfunding
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Fourteen Mississippi school districts have filed suit against the state, seeking repayment of amounts they say they were illegally shorted by the state's public school funding formula over the last six years.
The suit, filed Thursday in Hinds County Chancery Court, asks a judge to order lawmakers to never again underfund the Mississippi Adequate Educational Program.
The effort is led by former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.
State lawmakers have cumulatively underfunded the formula by $1.5 billion since 2009. The districts say they're owed $115 million.
Backers of a separate effort to write a full-funding requirement into the state constitution oppose the suit, saying lawmakers might react angrily and cut funding. They say the suit would give lawyers too much money and argue a constitutional guarantee of future funding is better.
Okolona school bond issue passes
OKOLONA, Miss. (AP) - Okolona voters have approved a $2 million school bond issue.
The announcement of Tuesday's election results were held up while local officials counted 465 absentee ballots Wednesday.
Complete but unofficial returns show 62 percent of those voting approved the bond issue. A 60 percent margin was required for passage.
The bulk of the money will be spent at the Old Okolona High School that now houses administration offices and on heating and air conditioning repairs at Okolona Elementary School.
Superintendent Dexter Green says some money will also go to enhance a new football field closer to the high school.
Green says issues related to the Americans with Disabilities Act will be addressed.
Green says district playgrounds are not safe and part of the bond issue will upgrade those facilities.
SeaPort to provide Tupelo with air service
TUPELO, Miss. (AP) - SeaPort Airlines will provide new air passenger service in Tupelo.
The U.S. Department of Transportation this week selected the Portland, Oregon-based carrier a two-year contract paying $2.5 million annually.
Local officials hope service can begin in October but details still are being worked out between SeaPort, outgoing provider Silver Airways, Tupelo Regional Airport and the federal agency.
In Tupelo, SeaPort's bid included 18 nonstop round trips per week to Nashville and 12 round trips to Memphis. The airline may phase-in its service by providing to a single city - either Memphis or Nashville - in the early going.
The Transportation Department says in its announcement it expects Silver and SeaPort to work together to make a smooth transition.
AIRPORT MANAGER RETIRES
Olive Branch airport manager retires
OLIVE BRANCH, Miss. (AP) - David Taylor, Olive Branch airport manager for 30 years, is retiring after a successful career at one of the busiest runways in Mississippi.
The 65-year-old Taylor tells The Commercial Appeal is looking into another job option. His plans aren't yet set, but September is booked for relaxation.
Taylor had a front-row seat on Olive Branch's growth explosion, with the airport as a key player.
The 6,000-foot runway was 2,000 feet shorter when Taylor was hired by Belz Enterprises, the airport's owner, in 1984. The then 11-year-old airport had two hangars and 27 airport-based planes. Belz had acquired the airport a year earlier.
The airport today is home to 56 hangars and 160 airplanes. Last year, the airport recorded 70,000 takeoffs and landings, making it busier than Jackson.
FIELD HOUSE FIRE
Field house fire becomes arson investigation
PURVIS, Miss. (AP) - Police say the Aug. 16 fire that destroyed the Purvis High School field house was set deliberately.
Lamar County Sheriff Danny Rigel tells The Hattiesburg American county and state arson investigators had determined the fire was "incendiary in nature."
Rigel declined to say what evidence had led to that conclusion.
Football coach Perry Wheat said the building was a complete loss, and with that, so was all the football team's equipment.
The building also housed the team's dressing and weight rooms.
Wheat said other schools donated equipment to the Tornadoes.
Man suspected of making, selling fake pot
GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) - Authorities say a man on probation for a drug-trafficking offense is accused of violating probation by having $208,410 in drug money, marijuana and products from China used to make and distribute synthetic cannabinoids.
The Sun Herald reports 32-year-old ThChau Ngoc Duong, of Ocean Springs, was ordered held with no bond Tuesday pending court action that could return him to prison.
Police say Duong is on probation for using or carrying a firearm during the distribution of MDMA, also known as ecstasy, in Harrison County in 2005.
Magistrate Judge John Gargiulo scheduled Duong's revocation hearing for Sept. 2 before U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett. It was Starrett who sentenced him in 2007 to five years in prison and four years' probation.
It was unclear whether Duong has an attorney.
LABOR DAY BOATING
DMR urges boating safety over Labor Day weekend
BILOXI, Miss. (AP) - The state Department of Marine Resources urges those who plan to go boating over the Labor Day weekend to take safety precautions.
DMR Marine Patrol Chief Keith Davis says boaters need to make sure their vessels and personal watercraft are in proper working order before taking them out on the water and need to have the proper safety equipment on board.
Davis says those who plan to drink alcohol should make arrangements for a designated driver.
He says the DMR will have extra officers on duty throughout the weekend.
Davis tells The Sun Herald his goal is to reduce water-related accidents and fatalities, and boater safety classes can help.
The DMR offers the classes once a month in Biloxi, Moss Point and Pass Christian.
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