The Oktibbeha County School District Board voted Monday to reject the only lease proposal for the Oktibbeha County Lake it received before the July 31 deadline because the proposal did not meet the lake’s appraised value.
Mike Ainsworth, OCSD 16th section land manager, said the only bid came from Rick Stansbury and John Barnett, offering $25,000 per year for the lease. A re-appraisal, which led the Wildlife and Fisheries Department to reject its lease on the lake and campgrounds, placed the land’s value at an estimated $40,700 per year, about $100 per acre.
“At this point in time, you as a board have done everything you can through the advertising process,” Ainsworth said. “We have advertised in the local paper for two consecutive weeks. We published in six different papers throughout the state of Mississippi. I would recommend that you entertain any written proposals received from the public at this point that meet the fair market value of the appraisal.”
James Covington, OCSD superintendent, said the lake lease has always been open for proposals from the public, and the OCSD will continue its search with no changes to procedure. The criteria, including the appraisal value, are set by the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office, so the board cannot accept a bid below the appraisal value.
“We’re not necessarily looking for the highest bid; it just has to meet the minimum bid,” Covington said. “We believe that the potential holder of that lease is out there. I just think since it’s such a large piece of land out there, it’s just taking potential lessees a little time to get a proposal together. I’m confident, in the next month or so, we’ll have an acceptable proposal. Unfortunately, the lake will still remain closed until we can find the best solution for the citizens of Oktibbeha County.”
Covington said establishing a lake lease soon is also in the district’s best interests. Until the lake is leased, the OCSD is responsible for utilities, grass cutting, insurance and other lake maintenance. It only costs about $1,200 per month, he said, so it was not figured into discussion of the OCSD’s annual budget, but it also costs manpower.
“The daily operations of the lake do not necessarily coincide with the daily operations of the school district,” Covington said. “We’re not necessarily equipped with the manpower to maintain the lake. The sooner we can transfer it, the better it will be for the district and the citizens of Oktibbeha County.”
The board also entered executive session to discuss renewal of a different 16th section lease agreement, and when executive session ended, the board voted to allow OCSD attorney Bennie Jones, Ainsworth and Covington to meet and negotiate with the parties involved in this agreement. Covington said he could not reveal further details, and when the board went into executive session, Jones explained why.
“The purpose is to discuss a business proposition in which, if the business proposition was discussed in public, it would compromise the school district’s position,” Jones said.
Before its regular meeting, the board also held a public hearing on the OCSD’s 2012-2013 budget. After OCSD business manager Verlie Floyd presented the budget, no members of the public were present to comment. At Covington’s suggestion, and after some board discussion, board member Cynthia Ward made a motion to hold another special meeting at 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 13 to vote on approving the budget, which passed unanimously.
“The law says you have to wait a week after the budget hearing before you adopt the budget,” Covington said. “If (the public) had any comments or questions about the budget, we would (have allowed) five minutes per individual to address those questions or concerns.”
The budget, which Covington said has been finalized, calls for $11,223,915.96 in revenues and $10,539,134.76 in expenditures, leaving a surplus of $684,781.20. The budget allocates $5,227,840.31 for instruction, $4,236,234.13 for support services, $693,782.74 for non-instructional services, $76,733.92 to the 16th section, and $304,543.66 for debt service.