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Governor OKs $2 million for arts school

JACKSON, Miss. – Legislation to provide $2 million for the startof classes at the Mississippi School for the Arts in Brookhaven wassigned into law this week by Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.

“We’re excited. We’re ready to open the doors,” said MSAExecutive Director Dr. Vicki Bodenhamer Thursday.

The law takes effect July 1.

Earlier in the 2003 session, lawmakers expressed doubts theywould find the $3.1 million in operating funds sought by theschool.

However, in the final weeks of the session, lawmakers put $2million in the appropriations bill for the Mississippi ArtsCommission for the school. Another $1 million was added to a bondbill, which is pending before the governor, to buy equipment

Bodenhamer said the bonding bill is due for Musgrove’s action bySaturday and a bill to give the school authority to order textbooksbefore the end of the current fiscal year on June 30 is awaitinghis action by Monday. She was hopeful he would sign both before theweekend.

“We have mommas and daddies on pins and needles waiting for wordthat for certain that the money is coming,” Bodenhamer said.

The school will be a home-away-from-home for students, who’llstudy visual arts, theater, music and dance. Other courses, such asmath and science will be taught at Brookhaven High School.

School officials said they expect to enroll about 90 students,who must first meet the school’s criteria and undergo interviewsand auditions.

The 1999 Legislature created the arts school and provided $11.9million for planning and renovation of campus buildings. Another $7million was appropriated in 2001.

Also this week, Musgrove signed a bill to create a rural impactfund. The bill takes effect immediately.

The Legislature authorized $10 million for the program.

The Mississippi Development Authority would use the money tomake grants or loans to smaller, rural communities trying toattract new businesses and to encourage existing businesses toexpand. It would also be used to fund programs that would createjobs for those communities.

”Our thought in creating this program was that the economy isdown and the rural communities are suffering so much more,” MDAexecutive director Bob Rohrlack said.

Rohrlack said while MDA has several programs for smallercommunities, some projects didn’t get funded because they failed tomake it over the required thresholds for either the capitalinvestment or the jobs created.

”The Rural Impact Authority will allow us to waive a rule likethe threshold requirement,” he said.