School issues cloud industrial park talks

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, June 3, 2003

Lincoln County supervisors Monday said they are committed tohelping with a new industrial park, but they would like moreinformation on possible school property tax revenue sharing andother issues before proceeding with a plan to finance theproject.

Questions about the proposed park site in relation to thecounty’s two school districts were the focus during Monday’s countyboard meeting. The proposed site, on 550 acres west of the city on15th and 16th Section land, is within the Brookhaven SchoolDistrict.

Lincoln County School District Superintendent of Education PerryMiller, however, said his district deserved some industry to helpsupport the education of the county’s students. Dividing propertytax revenue that would be paid by industries that locate in the newpark has also been mentioned.

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Miller stressed the importance of property tax revenue paid byindustries.

“The Lincoln County School District does not have a lot ofindustry to tax,” Miller said.

Miller echoed sentiments he expressed to chamber officialsearlier regarding placement of the industrial park. He citeddifferences in what a property tax mill will generate for thecounty school district versus what one will generate for the cityschool district.

“It is quite a bit lower than the Brookhaven School District,”said Miller, although he did not have figures available.

Officials said later that one property tax mill for the cityschool district will bring about $116,000 while one mill for thecounty school district generates approximately $63,500.

Brookhaven-Lincoln Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice-PresidentChandler Russ said school district lines were not considered duringevaluation of six possible sites for the new industrial park. Hesaid the sites, three of which were in the city school district andthree in the county school district, were looked at based onindustry needs, recruitment and costs of development.

“That’s how we got to the specific site,” Russ said.

Russ suggested a meeting, possibly this week, between city andcounty officials, both school boards and chamber officials to seeif a compromise can be reached. He said whether school propertytaxes could be divided between two district would be a legalquestion that would have to be answered.

Brookhaven School District Superintendent Dr. Sam Bounds, whowas not at Monday’s meeting, said earlier that it would bepremature to comment on the situation as there has been no formalconversation with the city school board regarding the industrialpark. He said city school officials support the need for industrialdevelopment.

County officials indicated the school tax issue will need to beaddressed by the city and county school boards.

“If there’s any agreement to be done, it’s between those twoboards,” said Bob Allen, board of supervisors attorney. “Thoseboards have been able to work well together in the past.”

District Three Supervisor Nolan Earl Williamson said he washopeful the situation could be worked out. He acknowledged theimportance of a new industrial park, but also referred to theschool tax issue.

“Every member around this board is aware we’ve got to have it,”Williamson said about a new park. “But we’d also like to see itdone fairly.”

The discussion followed the reading of a prepared statement byChancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop on behalf of the board ofsupervisors. In the statement, the board said it understands theimportance of having an industrial park with available space andexpressed its commitment to do its part in the creation of a newpark.

“We understand that the time for leadership with vision for thefuture is now,” Bishop said.

County and city officials have each been asked to pursue bondissues of up to $2.2 million to finance land purchase and parkdevelopment. City and county money would be paired withapproximately $500,000 raised by the chamber’s Vision Partnershipcampaign to finance the estimated $4.7 million project.

Continuing with the statement, Bishop said the board is in theprocess of determining the most effective, cost efficient manner inwhich to fund the county’s commitment to the new park. He saidfinancial information regarding displaced resident costs, bondissue cost estimates and data on sales tax increase possibilitiesis needed before that can be done.

“In addition, the board of supervisors is interested in pursuingwhether each public school student in Lincoln County and Brookhavencan have long term benefits from this new industrial park,” Bishopsaid.

The statement called for a meeting to insure the commitment ofeveryone involved in the project and to possibly discuss theproposed site. The statement reiterated the board’s support andsaid the board intends to pursue financing for the proposal “in thenear future.”

“We believe in the purchase and development of the proposedindustrial park and fully intend to do our part to make thisproject happen,” Bishop said.

While leaving the board meeting, Miller said he would like tosee taxable property placed within the boundaries of the countyschool district. He also expressed support for the new park.

“We realize the importance of the industrial park,” Miller said.”We wholeheartedly support it.”

Chamber of commerce officials said they were hopeful that adialogue between county, city, chamber and school officials wouldproduce good results.

“We look forward to the opportunity to sit down and see ifthere’s a win-win answer to the questions,” said Phillip Grady,chairman of the Industrial Development Foundation.

Later Monday, Russ said he had contacted the Attorney General’soffice and the Mississippi Development Authority regarding theschool tax questions. He said he had not received any definiteresponse yet.

“We’ll research it and report our findings,” Russ said.

In other business during a light board meeting, supervisorsapproved a $1,375 bid to cut down and remove a large oak tree infront of the government complex. Supervisors plan to remove thetree and develop a parking area on the site.

Supervisors said they considered other ways to dealing with thetree, but those were more expensive and the tree would eventuallydie any way. Officials mentioned comments they had heard from somewho did not want to see the tree removed.

“There’s a bunch out there that don’t want to fool with it, butcommon sense will tell you it’s got to go,” Williamson said.