$67 million school improvement bond in Jackson County voted down
JACKSON COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - A $67 million school improvement bond in Jackson County was voted down Tuesday, with 75 percent of residents voting against it.
Of the 30,735 registered voters that live in the Jackson County School District, election officials say 5,095 - or about 16 percent - turned out Tuesday to cast their votes. Of those, 25 percent voted in support of the bond, which would have built several new facilities for schools in East Central, Vancleave, and St. Martin.
Jackson County Superintendent Dr. John Stryker talked to WLOX right after the ballots were counted and said he is disappointed with the results.
“We did seek a lot of community input and we did our studies, spent over a year on it,” said Stryker. “I’m obviously disappointed. I feel like what we were asking for was very fundamental.”
Even though the vote did not go the way Stryker was hoping, he believes the high voter turnout is a good sign for the future of Jackson County schools.
“I’m encouraged that we have that many people that care passionately about our schools,” said Stryker. “Moving forward, we’re going to be in good shape.”
The school district paid around $200,000 to an outside company to conduct a facility and demographic survey determining what buildings are in need of improvements. Jackson County School Board Chairman Troy Frisbie said the results of those surveys are still important for future improvements.
”We’ve got a lot of good information as far as facilities and knowing where we currently stand, and so the board is just going to have to regroup and we’re going to have to look at the community input,” said Frisbie. “Look at what they didn’t like and then maybe develop a different plan off that based on our engineering studies and the community input from this vote.”
The 20-year-bond project would have covered various repairs and upgrades throughout the district, including several new construction projects. Those projects include new performing arts centers at East Central High and St. Martin High, a new multipurpose gym at St. Martin High, and a new gym/multipurpose center at Vancleave High. In all, 42 percent of the funds would have went to St. Martin schools; Vancleave and East Central schools would have each received 29 percent of the money.
However, many opponents of the bond said they would rather see that money go towards improvements in the classroom first, then extracurricular facilities. Concerns were also raised over the merging of two Vancleave elementary schools.
Frisbie says he believes another bond proposal could be on the horizon.
“I think that’s a definite. I think that we probably will be going for another bond sometime in the future,” said Frisbie. “Can’t really give a time when, but I’m assuming probably in the next year, couple of years, we’ll do another bond.”
Until that time, Stryker says the district still has plans to make necessary improvements to the district’s schools.
“We have two things going for us. We have federal money that is coming in and so we’re very grateful for that. That will help us,” said Stryker. “We also still put money from the general fund into facilities; we will continue to do that.”
Read more stories from WLOX’s coverage of the Jackson County school bond below:
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