Bay-Waveland School Board Secretly Discussing $37 Million Dollar Bond Issue (Updated)

The discussions about issuing bonds by the school board in executive sessions has become an open secret. This is the type of thing that has no business being discussed behind closed doors, especially when the accompanying tax increase will total between 10 and 12 mills.

I can think of a few reasons to have such financial discussions in secret and none of them are good.

Issuing bonds may be exactly what Bay Waveland Schools needs for a variety of reasons. Those reasons need to be shared with the taxpaying public.

Update: Since this post was published Slabbed has communicated with School Board Attorney Ronnie Artigues and Superintendent of Education Dr. Reed, who disputed these items were discussed in secret but instead were brought up in public at the regular meeting of July 13, 2021 (Introduction of bond counsel) and at the Special called meeting held on July 28, 2021 (list of potential capital projects which total $37 million dollars).

Slabbed reviewed the meeting agendas posted to the School District’s website and could not find a specific mention of either items on the agendas. Upon further inquiry of Dr. Reed, bond counsel was included in the heading “Superintendent’s Report” in the agenda of the July 13, 2021 meeting.

Minutes of the previous meeting [June 2021] submitted for School Board approval were included in the board packet of the July 13, 2021 meeting on the District’s website. The minutes of the July 13, 2021 meeting presented to the School Board on August 9, 2021 for approval at the August meeting were not included in the meeting pdf currently on the District’s website.

Had a mention of Bond Counsel appeared anywhere in an agenda of the July 13, 2021 meeting, Slabbed certainly would be ready to say this whole deal is a big nothing-burger and move on. We aren’t going to do that just yet folks.

This much is clear. Issuing bonded debt and do some significant construction in the schools is being discussed. Involving the public in this is never a bad idea.

10 thoughts on “Bay-Waveland School Board Secretly Discussing $37 Million Dollar Bond Issue (Updated)”

  1. There is no provision under the Miss. Open Meetings Law to justify discussion of the expenditure public money in an Executive Session. I would blame this on their attorney, and he does bear the burden of keeping his Board legal, but they have been cited by Ethics for this before, are all adults, and should study the laws that govern their positions, and abide by them. When a public body starts hiding their actions from the public they took an oath to serve, you know they have no good intentions for their constituents. There are no words to describe how disappointed I am in the 4 on this Board that I openly supported. I have had one conversation with my new representative from Waveland. Not impressed at all. They owe the citizen taxpayers of the Bay St. Louis-Waveland School District a well advertised public hearing that would include public input to communicate to us their plans for the increase in taxes on our private property they are imposing for this $37 million dollars. Anything less is totally unacceptable.

    1. Well said Lana.

      I imagine some of the newer members on the board are making the mistake of thinking they can hide behind the bad advice they are getting in the back room in that regard.

      1. Yes, some are low hanging fruit for the “ advisors” they depend upon. Some backbone, and the correct understanding of the chain of command could correct that mistake in one meeting. But you have to care enough to make it happen.

  2. Thanks for the Update, Doug, but let’s just cut to the chase. According to the School Board’s Policies and Procedure BCBD, the Agenda SHALL be prepared by the Superintendent in co-operation with the Board President. I have examined the same documents (agendas and minutes) that you did, and could not find any mention of a Bond Counsel on either one ( 7-13 or 7-28). In fact, under Superintendent’s Report, there is nothing. But let’s think this through logically. The average citizen may go to the School District website to review the Agenda for the upcoming meeting to see if there is anything of interest they may want to attend and listen to, whether or not they have questions, or whether or not the Board acts on them, just to listen. A $37 million dollar bond presented by a bond counsel would, I would guess, catch the eye of most taxpayers since the bill will be sent to them. According to the Miss. Open Meetings Act, Section 25-41-5, section (4), ” An agenda and materials that will be distributed to members of the public body and that have been made available to the staff of the public body in sufficient time for duplication and forwarding to all locations where public access will be provided SHALL BE MADE AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC AT THE TIME OF THE MEETING.” Now, how would the average citizen looking at the published agenda know a bond counsel was going to be there if it is not on the published agenda? Was the appearance of this person added after the agenda was published? Did the Board President call for any amendments to the agenda prior to officially convening the meeting? Did any Board member speak up and say “wait a minute, this person is not on the agenda tonight. We can’t include this without having advertised it to the public?” It is difficult to imagine a bond counsel just popping in at the last minute with a packet of information totaling $37 million dollars. Our school officials seem to be shooting themselves in the foot by declaring to you that this was discussed in open session, while at the same time omitting it from their published agenda. This appears to be on face value a clear cut violation of the Open Meetings Act which protects our right to “know” in advance what is going to be discussed by our public bodies whether they act on them at that particular meeting. We are entitled to be “informed.” This may come as a shock, but it is OUR money they are spending. Dr. Reed and Board President, Casey Favre are not novices in these procedures. I would be interested to know, as a taxpayer, what purpose they thought would be served by their conducting our business in this matter? It may be very difficult down the road to convince the taxpayers of the need for $37 million dollars when they deemed it unnecessary to include us in the discussion from the beginning. The taxpayers of the Bay St. Louis-Waveland School District deserve better than this. Openness in governing and integrity in spending are of the utmost importance when serving the public. AND trust is a very difficult thing to regain.

    1. First thanks to the reader that alerted me to the cache problem Slabbed had as those have now been fixed.

      Lana there is a nuance here that I probably did not convey and that is the bond counsel talked about the bonded capacity limits (which are around the $37Million) and options but he did not tie the issue to any projects or recommend an amount. Those items must be decided by the school board.

      At the meeting on 7-28-21, the district’s facility manager presented a complete list of all the capital expenses needed that the district could fund. That list totaled into the plus $30 million range and included a new wing at Waveland Elementary among other items.

      The bond counsel will do the paperwork for whatever amount is chosen. It may also involve the 3 mill construction loan authority. They are looking at all their options is the bottom line here.

      This topic has lots of 2021 type nuance including a government that through no fault of their own no longer has the local paper regularly covering their meetings. I am not blaming the Echo here but there is an entire sequence of events that caused the rumor mill to hit overdrive including meeting agendas that should have had a bit more detail.

  3. After a conversation with one of my Waveland representatives on the School Board yesterday, my take away is how desperately the District needs to invest in a live stream service for all of their meetings. The published minutes and agendas I reviewed leave a lot to be desired, and my representative was confused and having trouble remembering what happened at meetings. The County and Bay St. Louis both have good livestream systems. Waveland and the School Board need to do the same. It would be a wise use of public funds that would benefit all. We are in the 21st year of the 21st century and should not have to rely on what elected and appointed officials arbitrarily “ decide” to publish on their agendas and minutes. There can only be one motive for that—shutting out the public to whom they send the bills.

  4. Doug

    on the basis of law in your next door neighbor, and having dealt with bond counsel for decades, I’m surprised that any bond counsel or for that matter, any counsel to an entity seeking issuance of bonds, is not dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” with zeal.
    I’d have to look up your state’s analogue to peremption statutes, which extinguish the right to challenge after passage of time, which are generally foreign to the common law for obvious reasons – for example this state’s Constitution states that challenges are limited to 30 days from the advertisement of issuance – for with respect to public finance it is always the case that the lender generally tells the borrower how to act. Whether or not there is a breach of public trust or whatever is no concern to the lender, the public be damned. However, all bond counsel with any iota of competency make damn certain the process is followed.
    The public/open meetings doctrine is part and parcel of that process, and from what you have written appears your local ruling class have mastered the “by the way” routine of public finance, slipping in matters without strict adherence to the law. After all, who cares, just another affliction on on the volk whose grandchildren get the joy of paying off the debt.

  5. Just a few thoughts. It is perfectly normal for bond issues to be kept in the executive session until details are aligned to be presented to the general public so that disinformation can be minimized. A bond would obviously have to pass a public vote… So I am confused as to why you think they are trying to do this secretively? If you were involved in school issues you would know the lower elementary school is in desperate need for additional classrooms and staff. So I don’t understand why so much is being placed on the very people responsible for educating our children? When is the last time any of you called or volunteered to help the district or PTO? When is the last time you attended a board meeting? Where is your support instead of just complaining? Our district has succeeded abundantly in scoring the past several years, yet people still find a way to gripe.

  6. Ms. Davis,
    According to the numbers the Bay St. Louis-Waveland School District has presented to the Miss. Dept. of Education from 2018 to 2021, there is no growth in student body at the lower elementary level in our district. In 2018, there were 128 Kindergarteners, in 2021 there were 93, in 2018 there were 135 First Graders, in in 2021, there are 138. In 2018, there were 155 Second Graders. In 2021, in there were 116. In 2018, there were 140 Third Graders. In 2021, there were 103. These numbers do not show a desperate need for additional classrooms. The only grade we gained students in at the lower elementary level is in First Grade, and that was a grand total of 3 students.
    With regard to it being perfectly normal for bond issues to be kept in executive session until details are aligned to be presented to the public to minimize disinformation–please cite for us where that is found in the Mississippi Open meetings Act.
    I have been a volunteer at all levels you mentioned. Don’t attend meetings at this time. Instead of asking the public why they don’t attend meetings, have you asked the administration and school board why they don’t live stream their meetings as other districts and public bodies do? And if they do, please share that link on Slabbed for us.
    Test scores came out today in the media. I will be reviewing those too.

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