State Supreme Court to Decide Which Schools Get Millions in Property TaxesBy Rhonda Miller | Published 13 Jun 2011 09:20am |
The Mississippi Supreme Court hears arguments Monday that will determine which school districts get property taxes from Chevron and the new Gulf Liquefied Natural Gas terminal. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports it means millions of dollars for schools.
School districts in Jackson County have gotten $3.2 million, so far, under a state law passed in 2007. Tax dollars are shared by Pascagoula, Moss Point, Ocean Springs and Jackson County schools.
Before the law changed, Pascagoula schools were the only ones receiving money from Chevron. Now Pascagoula is trying to get the money exclusively, again. The school district has taken the case to the state Supreme Court, claiming the 2007 law is unconstitutional.
In addition to the constitutional issue, Pascagoula School Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich says his district should be compensated for being near the energy companies.
"There’s a certain risk that’s involved with us having refineries and chemical plants located within our school district boundaries. I have schools that are less than a mile or two miles away from these facilities," Rodolfich said.
The Pascagoula school district initiated the case against Jackson County. Attorney Jimmy Heidelberg is representing the county. He says their position is, the legislature has the authority to determine where tax dollars go.
"The legislature, as an elected branch of government by the people, determines where tax revenue is to be spent. This bill was passed by a vote of 50-2 in the Senate, 120-1 in the House and was signed by Gov. Barbour," Heidelberg said.
Attorney Alwyn Luckey represents Ocean Springs schools, and said all schools are in desperate need of money in the tight economy.
"My complaint is we have a school system spending enormous amounts of money in attorneys' fees to litigate against other school districts, and it seems to me unseemly," Luckey said.
Schools have a lot at stake in the case, with billions of dollars in projects underway at Chevron and other energy companies.
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