OUR OPINION: Attend the bond issue referendum sessions

C0XY_E0M_72TN_djournal_our_opinion_stock_news_jisi_shane_2_300x225pxPublic information and discussion sessions about the proposed $13.5 million Lee County Public School District bond issue begin tonight, with two additional sessions set later in the month.

The opening session begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Saltillo High School Commons Area.

Additional 6:30 p.m. meetings are set:

• Thursday in the Mooreville High gym

• Tuesday, July 23, Shannon High auditorium

Each session will have campus layout drawings on display, a powerpoint presentation, or displays on boards. There will be a question and answer session for anyone attending.

Developed in a relatively short time by the Lee County school board, Superintendent Jimmy Weeks and school board architect Rud Robison, the plan needed to be ready for a summer vote to take advantage of an earlier bond issue whose costs roll off the property tax levy this year. Weeks has said no tax increase will be necessary if the bond issue passes and is implemented in a timely way.

Every area of the district – north, central and south – would receive extensive work, but the amount spent on individual campuses would vary within the facilities plan developed by Robison, the trustees and Weeks.

All work, Weeks said, is driven by need reflecting enrollment growth and/or specific qualitative issues.

The district has schools of varying grade levels in Shannon, Verona, Plantersville, Mooreville, Saltillo and Guntown.

The district has three high schools: Saltillo, Mooreville and Shannon.

We believe high-profile bond issue losses in the last couple of years, including a $170 million proposal in Rankin County in 2011, make clear and full information of the proposal’s details essential. Voters in the Austin, Texas, district earlier this year rejected most of a bond issue totaling more than $500 million, and some who were questioned said the information provided by the supporters wasn’t good enough.

It is extremely important that parents of the Lee County district’s children, plus staff and faculty members, attend the sessions this week and next. Good facilities – and inadequate ones – most affect the students, faculty, staff and by direct extension the parents whose expectations run very high.

The referendum requires a 60 percent approval, not a simple majority.

Robison said earlier the plan might be altered in light of convincing questions and recommendations from those participating in the planning/information sessions.

Bond referendums present a prime opportunity for absentee voters to have a significant impact on outcomes because turnouts are often low and relatively few votes could tip the outcome.
Applications and ballots are available through the Circuit Clerk’s office in the Lee County Justice Center. Voters should note that absentee voting ends July 27, three days ahead of the precinct voting on July 30. Thirty-one of 38 county precincts have eligible voters. Only voters who live within the county school district can participate.

The Circuit Clerk’s office is open 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. weekdays. Special Saturday hours from 8 a.m. until noon July 20 and July 27 will allow other opportunities to vote absentee.

Adequate public education is a top priority and a matter of future-shaping decisions in every school district, whether county, city or special county line districts.