Backed by a group of African-American community leaders and concerned citizens, including Councilwoman Deborah Delgado, NAACP President Clarence Magee said there was a "Plantation Mentality" within the city council; presumably referring to white council members Kim Bradley and Carter Carroll when they did not approve Mayor Johnny Dupree's re-appointments of two African-American school board trustee members. "I've been black long enough to know what it looks like, what it smells like," said Magee following a rally Monday on the steps of Hattiesburg City Hall. When describing the racial divide Rev. Bartley said it was "as classic as Gone with the Wind." The video can be found here. This council vote occurred on April 17th, and the video of the vote can be seen here. Councilman Ware was out-of-town when the vote occurred.
The nuts and bolts of the issue lay with the Hattiesburg City School Board raising the millage without accountability to the Hattiesburg City Council. The school board has the full authority to raise property taxes, but according to Ware refused to draw down from a bloating rainy day fund to avoid a property tax hike. While the council can't control whether or not the school board raises taxes, they can prevent members from being reappointed, and they did just that.
Dave Ware who was absent for the vote stated in an editorial with WDAM:
"In discussions with officials at the school district, I learned that the school district has budgeted a reserve balance, or "rainy day fund", that is more than twice the amount recommended by the Mississippi Department of Education: our school district maintains a fund balance of approximately $5 million dollars.
My request is that the school district use part of the 5 million dollars in rainy day funds to cover the $600,000 in increased taxes it has requested. If in future years, as our local economy improves, an increase in local funding is needed, I encourage school officials to request additional funds. Simply put, if today is not the day to use "rainy day funds", then when?" Councilman Ware's full editorial can be found here.
Council President Kim Bradley said it was his vote was his way of holding the school board accountable for increasing the millage. Carroll said if the school board had explained to the council specific reasons for the tax increase, it would've been a different story. "They refused to show us the budget; they refused to tell us why they needed to raise the taxes," Carroll said.