JPS requests mil increase to pay bond debt - - Jackson, MS

JPS requests mil increase to pay bond debt

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

The Jackson Public School district is asking the city for millions to help retire bond debt. A millage increase, meaning a tax hike, is being requested to meet that need.

JPS officials met with Jackson Budget Committee members Monday requesting $2.3 million dollars for a debt service payment on the 2006 bond issue.

Six years ago voters passed a $150 million dollar bond issue to build new schools, make repairs and additions.

The millage rate has remained at 74.99 since 2007. JPS is asking for an increase of 3.5 mils.

"The millage that is set has not been sufficient to generate the amount of dollars required for the debt. It is certainly not that the city is withholding funds from the district and not giving us everything we are entitled to," said JPS Chief Financial Officer Sharolyn Miller.

The school district's operating budget was $72.5 million dollars last year.

They are asking $69 million this year.

Officials told the council they will pay $17 million dollars on the bond debt this year.

Council members said a mil increase will be a hard sell for taxpayers in the cash strapped city.

"I think we're headed for a P.R. train wreck. This bond means that over the course of a certain amount of time there will be a millage increase. The money's just not going to fall out of the air and pay for this bond issue," said Ward 6 Councilman Tony Yarber.

"If we're gonna put things out there, tell people you know we're gonna get you $150 million dollars so we can go out there and build all these schools, well we're gonna have to pay for it," said Ward 1 Councilman Quentin Whitwell.

"The timing here is terrible when we talk about challenges. Y'all have them and you know firsthand that we have them," said Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett Simon.

For the past three years the Jackson Public School district has used reserve funds to make the escalating annual debt bond service payments.

"The school district does not have the reserves left anymore. Taxes will go up, but they voted for it six years ago in 2006 when they voted for the bond issue," said JPS Interim Superintendent Dr. Jayne Sargent.

Dr. Sargent said JPS reserve funds have fallen below $5 million dollars, less that the 7% required by state law.

No action was taken by the budget committee.

A mil increase must be approved by September to be included in the 2012-13 city budget.

The next JPS public hearing on the budget will be held June 19th.

The deadline for the school budget adoption is June 26th.

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