FEMA freezes funds Bay schools won

Trustees of the Bay-Waveland School District agreed this week to borrow up to $4 million to complete construction of two elementary schools.

Work remains to be done on the new lower elementary school in Waveland and the upper elementary in Bay St. Louis. Both projects still need more construction above original amounts funded by FEMA, County Attorney Ronnie Artigues said.

In an unrelated funding issue, the school board recently learned that a separate $6.9 million the district has been expecting from FEMA will not be forthcoming immediately. The board had appealed to a judicial panel in Washington to gain funding FEMA had previously denied for hurricane damage-related work on several buildings, and the school district won that appeal in February.

But that money is now on hold because congressional negotiations over FEMA’s budget have delayed payment on recovery projects not already underway.

“We’re at a standstill until they resolve their budget issues,” Artigues said.

He said there is no connection between the appeal money and other funds needed to finish work on the elementary schools. Those two projects were not fully covered by FEMA in the beginning, Artigues said.

A resolution passed by the school district Board of Trustees at its Monday meeting allows the district to borrow a maximum of $4 million through a tax note, to be repaid over 20 years.

Legal counsel on the transaction will be Lucien Bourgeois, a bond lawyer with Butler Snow in Jackson.

Although the resolution passed Monday allows the board to borrow up to $4 million, Artigues said that much may not be necessary. “I anticipate the amount they need is more like $3.6 million,” he said.

BY J.R. Welsh

The Sea Coast Echo

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