On Tuesday, Hattiesburg citizens voted to approve a bond renewal for the public school district that will bring millions of dollars worth of improvements for the district.
“Our citizens stepped up and proved once again that the City of Hattiesburg aims to be the premier city in the Gulf South,” said Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker. “Our community came together and collectively chose hope over fear, optimism over pessimism and commitment over apathy. Our people made the profound, audacious choice to invest in the Hattiesburg of today, and through that, they chose a tomorrow filled with so much promise and potential. We have said that Hattiesburg will only go as far as its public schools will take it. Thanks to our citizens, we made a decision that we will go farther than any of us ever imagined.”
The bond is a renewal and would not increase taxes. Bonds would be issued in one or more series beginning in spring 2019. Voters previously approved a bond renewal in a December 2001 election (that renewed two previous bond issues). These bonds were sold in 2002-2003, and they will be paid off in 2018 and 2019.
This plan will give Hattiesburg residents an opportunity to renew this millage now, which would generate up to $22.5 million for capital improvement funding with no increase in taxes.
“I am very pleased with the overwhelming support we received from the citizens of our community,” said Hattiesburg school Superintendent Dr. Robert Williams. “The passage of the bond at 93.97% (unofficial results) of voter approval is a testament to the commitment the community has to Hattiesburg Public School District and our students.”
The bond renewal which will generate $22.5 million, would be used to make critical improvements at campuses throughout the school district. Bond funding will not be used for operational costs or salaries. It can only be used for capital improvements. City officials said that $7 million will go to improve Hattiesburg High by adding a classroom building to the front of the campus, which school leaders say will not only add to classroom space, but it will also help secure the front of campus. The rest of the $7 million will be used to make security and technology upgrades at HHS.
An additional $4 million will be used to add classroom space at N.R. Burger. The remainder of the funding will be used for renovations at all elementary schools.
The Hattiesburg Public School District did a survey of its facility needs during the first part of 2018. While the number of needed renovations topped $40 million, the Board of Trustees chose to prioritize $22.5 million in targeted projects in order to avoid raising taxes on residents of the school district.