The Stone County School District is making concrete steps toward proposing a bond issue for a new high school facility, but the timeline is tentative for now.

At a special-called meeting on Monday, January 3, 2022, the board met with Jim Young, a consultant from the Excellence Group.

Young specializes in coaching school districts through public finance options like bond elections.

The school district’s December claims docket lists a $10,400 expense for the Excellence Group presumed to be Young’s fee for his guidance.

The need for a new high school nor the discussion of a future bond is not new. Board members and elected officials have discussed proposing a bond for the past two years.

Until the district was approved for $8 million in funding for the new career technical education center and donated land from Wynn Alexander and Dan O’Neal in the past two years, a bond was not probable, Superintendent Inita Owen said.

Owen said the county’s tax base is too lean to raise every penny of funds for a new high school alone.

School Board President Jacob Smith said an early estimate of a new high school and athletic complex, including necessary infrastructure, is estimated to cost between $25 and $28 million.

State law strictly limits how districts raise funds, purchase property, establish new schools, and borrow money.

Loans over a certain amount cannot legally stretch the tax base too thin, and elections must be planned and voted on before any significant decision occurs.

Young gave board members two alternate timelines for a proposed bond election and answered questions about logistics. One option is to host a bond election in the spring around late May. The other option is to host an election in August. Both timelines have pros and cons, Young explained.

The school district must pay for the election, which will cost thousands in election commission fees and other expenses.

Young advised the board members to have a cemented plan and pass a resolution by no later than mid-March of this year to host an election in May.

The district does not have any official plans to host an election or pass a bond resolution yet, but members agreed to begin fielding their constituents on thoughts about the value and investment for a new high school.

Recommended for you