Harrison County School District responds after Biloxi, Gulfport City Councils discuss school bond issue
HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The Harrison County School District (HCSD) pushed out a response saying they wanted to “clarify misleading issues raised in certain recent press reports and by reported statements by officials of the cities of Gulfport and Biloxi” shortly after both the Biloxi and Gulfport City Council took up the school bond topic in regularly scheduled city council meetings Tuesday.
Harrison County School District first addresses their sole authority “to call for an election for the benefit of the District and its students” which they cite is given to them under state law. HCSD says the law allows for them to set the date, polling places and ballot for a school bond election without needing approval from either cities first.
HCSD says once the election has been called, the district’s County Election Commission is to conduct the bond election.
The district says the Board of Education strategically adopted a resolution calling for the election on August 6, 90 days before the election date, to save taxpayers the cost of a seperate election. HCSC says this is contrary to what has been stated by other entities.
HCSD also addressed school district boundaries and places of school attendance saying the boundaries are set by state law and Supreme Court rulings.
By law, the boundaries of a city school district do not extend into the county when a city annexes portions of a county. Therefore, the Harrison County School District is obligated and authorized to act for the benefit of all residents within the District, regardless of whether the students live within a city or in an unincorporated area of the County. This is well established law, and should not affect whether registered voters of the Harrison County School District vote in favor of the bond issue to improve their school district
HCSD says a vote for or against the bond by residents will not affect the district’s boundaries or whether students in one school district may attend school in another school district. But the district says it will affect the quality of the school district within which they reside.
Lastly, HCSD says the issuance of the bonds will not affect residents of the Cities of Biloxi and Gulfport who do not live within the District’s boundaries and if the bond passes, the proceeds will be used to address overcrowding and to increase school security with the district.
Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes issued the following statement:
“If it’s going to be involving Gulfport residents, Gulfport money and taxes, then we should have a say on the location of these facilities, how they’re constructed and how they’re going to function. There’s a larger picture here, and I’m hopeful that the powers that be with the Harrison County School District will see that in the same fashion and understand that with growth there may come a few growing pains.”
Biloxi Mayor FoFo Gilich believes this is a move in the city’s effort to change school districts, so city residents attend city schools, not county schools.
“Time and time again, especially military families coming in,” Gilich said. “Once they realized this was the tradition, they chose other places. It impacts the whole city, and it will impact the whole city.”
Before Harrison County issued the response, the Biloxi City Council unanimously voted to oppose the Harrison County School Board referendum, with the exception of Councilman Nathan Barrett who abstained from voting.
The vote came shortly after the Gulfport City Council unanimously passed a resolution requesting the Harrison County School District delay any planned construction until alternatives can be explored.
The boundaries of the Harrison County School District include parts of Biloxi and Gulfport. If the $55 million bond passes on November 6, two new schools and upgrades to others will come shortly after.
Parents living in Biloxi and Gulfport have expressed support in favor of the bond.
The Harrison County School District is holding four public meetings leading up to the bond vote for residents to learn more.
The meeting schedule:
- Tuesday, October 23, 2018: West Harrison High School — 5:30 pm
- Wednesday, October 24, 2018: River Oaks Elementary — 5:30 pm
- Monday, October 29, 2018: Lyman Elementary School — 6:00 pm
- Thursday, November 1, 2018: D’Iberville High School — 6:00 pm
For more information on the school bond referendum, visit here.
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