Restaurant Tax Vote Could Affect Plans To Build New OSHS

The cafeteria at Ocean Springs High is still crowded, even though the school added a third lunch shift last year.

"Only half of them are eating inside. The other half will be eating outside," said Ocean Springs High School Principal David Baggett. "Over the last five years alone, we've grown over 350 students. So we've really outgrown this facility."

Besides running out of room, the buildings aren't designed for technology, and too many doors raise safety and security concerns. The district is also looking at adding more programs in the near future. That's why the superintendent is seriously considering building a new high school.

"Every 20 or 30 years, any community finds itself at a crossroads. Ocean Springs is at that crossroads," said Ocean Springs School Superintendent Robert Hirsch. "Before we move forward with a new high school or a bond issue, which obviously would increase ad valor um taxes, we have multiple things to consider."

Hirsch says the decision on whether to build a new high school hinges on the outcome of next Tuesday's vote on the two-percent restaurant and bar tax. That's the tax the city is promoting to build a new public safety complex and park facilities.

Hirsch says if voters reject the restaurant tax, the city of Ocean Springs may consider raising property taxes to fund those projects. If that happens, Hirsch says the school district would have a tough time pushing its own bond issue that would also raise property taxes.

"We would have to determine to back off and try to make do, which would not be a really good situation in terms of educating our young students," Hirsch said. "The other option would be to compete against the city with our own bond issue, and I don't think that's a good plan or a good strategy. Because the average citizen, myself included, is going to sit there and say 'Oh, two bond issues, I don't know if I can support that.'"

Again, Ocean Springs residents will vote on the food and beverage tax on Tuesday, December 11th. The referendum needs at least 60 percent of the vote to pass.