Upset Rankin County residents speak up at school board meeting

RANKIN COUNTY, MS (Mississippi News Now) - A number of emotional Rankin County residents came out to voice their concerns during Wednesday morning's Rankin County School Board meeting. Just about all of the residents in attendance oppose the school board's recent three to two vote to settle an annexation lawsuit with the City of Pearl.

Pearl resident Warren Biddle left the Rankin County School Board meeting a bit emotional.

"I'm just walking out here a little sad," said Biddle.

Biddle and other Pearl residents voiced their concerns about the board's recent decision to potentially settle an annexation agreement with Pearl Schools.

Biddle and his family live in the Woodson Bend subdivision in Pearl. It's one of several Pearl neighborhoods that were annexed from Rankin County, but remain in the Rankin County School District. A settlement could mean Biddle's kids would end up going to Pearl Schools.

"I prefer to stay where I am" said Biddle. "I prefer the schools where I am."

Board member Cecil McCrory is one of the board members who voted to look into settling with Pearl.

"All we're doing is saying Pearl is willing to sit down and talk" said McCrory. "Let's sit down and talk see if we can resolve this."

Biddle said if his property becomes part of the Pearl School District he's afraid he'll lose at least $20,000  in home equity and pay more property taxes.

"I know Pearl's millage rate is higher than ours" said Biddle. "I ran our numbers and it's going to go up if I have to pay Pearls millage rate."

If residents living in annexed neighborhoods end up going to Pearl Schools, McCrory said taxes could indeed go up.

Prior to the recent vote to look into a settlement, the Rankin County School Board has paid experts nearly $700,000 to defend Pearls lawsuit. McCrory doesn't believe the money was wasted.

"When this started Pearl was suing for all the kids, the land all the taxes" said McCrory. "It wasn't a waste."

It could take up to two weeks to work out the terms of the settlement. Ultimately it's up to the Department of Justice to make the final decision.

The attorney for Pearl Schools says if a settlement does go through, the district isn't asking Rankin County students living in Pearl to transfer to the Pearl School District.

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