Former Harrison County superintendent speaks out on bond issue

Henry Arledge
Henry Arledge SUN HERALD file

The students and staff of the Harrison County School District have a special place in my heart. It was an honor to serve as your superintendent for 36 years.

Seeing the opposition to the bond issue by the cities of Gulfport and Biloxi is very disappointing. Never in the history of Harrison County Schools has another government entity passed a resolution opposing any of our school bond issues, much less taken $25,000 from the tax dollars of their citizens to fight it.

Many people who are new to the area are not aware that in the 1990s, when Gulfport first annexed Orange Grove, they signed an order stating they did not want the students and would not interfere with the school district. This is case #91736, which was approved by the court.

For many years, it has been a well-established law that the Harrison County School Board has sole responsibility for the management of the students and schools within its district. Now with all the growth in the area, apparently things have changed. I believe this is a money issue with Gulfport schools. They now need revenue and taxes the area is generating and want the students as long as the money comes with them.

Specifically, Gulfport School District is currently very near the maximum school tax millage they can collect by law. The school tax rate in the county school area is about 10 mills less.

Biloxi has a different issue. I believe they have plenty of revenue from gaming and ad valorem taxes on casinos, but they need more children to fill their classrooms. I happen to agree Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich when he said parents of students from the annexed area who attend city schools should not have to pay any tuition. The Biloxi schools are the ones charging this tuition. His appointed school board could easily delete this fee during a regular meeting.

With the continued growth in the communities served by the Harrison County School District, we must continue to build additional classrooms and new schools. Our board and administrators have studied this growth, and I trust their judgment in deciding what is best for the district as a whole.

This bond issue will not increase your school taxes. Old bond issues have been paid off. The new bond issue will alleviate overcrowding by building two new schools as well as redesigning North Gulfport. More importantly, it will enhance security at existing schools. Our children deserve no less.

Please join me on Nov. 6 in voting yes for the Harrison County School Bond issue.