This appeal, of the Prentiss County Chancery Court's February 20, 1988, confirmation of the City of Booneville's annexation of 18 square miles surrounding the prior city limits, is brought by several Prentiss County property owners, referred to herein as Objectors. Having determined that the chancery court's interpretation of the law was correct and that its factual finding that the entire annexation was reasonable is supported by substantial, credible evidence, we affirm.
On February 3, 1987, the City of Booneville adopted an ordinance enlarging its corporate boundaries from 6.9 square miles to 24.9 square miles. On March 16, 1987, the City filed its petition seeking to have the ordinance ratified, approved and confirmed. In its petition the City named the City of Jumpertown (Jumpertown) as a defendant because Jumpertown was the only town located within three miles of the proposed annexation. See, MCA 21-1-31 (1972 & Supp. 1988). Jumpertown answered and offered no objection to the annexation conditioned on the trial court's ratification of a service agreement between Booneville and Jumpertown by which Jumpertown would determine who would provide water service to persons living within its Certified Service Area, part of which lies in the annexation area. Big V Water Association, Inc., Thrasher Water Association, Inc., five Prentiss County property owners (Objectors), and the Prentiss County Board of Education also answered the City's petition.
The hearing on the proposed annexation was held in the Prentiss County Chancery Court on July 28-31, 1987. Twenty
witnesses, including various city and state officials, experts and several Prentiss County residents, testified for the City. Objectors called nine Prentiss County residents, an expert in engineering, the secretary of the Prentiss Co. School Board, and a former mayor of Booneville. The Prentiss County Board of Education called eight officials of the Prentiss Co. School District.
A study conducted by the Mississippi Research and Development Center and concluded in May, 1987, was entered into evidence. The study was designed to address the financial and planning feasibility of the proposed annexation. The Center's overall findings on feasibility were:
1. The city of Booneville is financially capable of extending the full level of its municipal services to the annexed areas in a timely manner.
2. The city needs to expand beyond its present corporate limits to control growth and increase its growth potential for the future.
3. The city's annexation attempt appears to be fair and equitable, as newly annexed residents will receive additional services, lower insurance premiums, and other benefits to offset the consequent increase in local taxes.
In addition to this evidence, there was much testimony from the city's witnesses detailing the need for expansion, individual city departments' logistical ability to provide services to the newly annexed area, and the city's financial ability to provide those services. Objectors and the Prentiss County Board of Education put on little contrary proof on these issues. Instead, both focused on the devastating effect annexation would have on the Prentiss County School System in terms of losses in students, teachers, and money.
Objectors, the only appellants, argue that the chancellor erred in determining that annexation of the entire proposed area was reasonable and that the chancellor erred in determining that the city versus county school systems issues were irrelevant to the annexation issue.
WAS THE CHANCELLOR MANIFESTLY WRONG IN FINDING THAT ANNEXATION OF THE ENTIRE AREA WAS REASONABLE?
Objectors' position is that the trial court erred in ratifying the entire annexation and that as such the annexation is not reasonable or fair. Objectors urge this Court to either modify the annexation or remand to the trial court for modification so that the southwestern and northern most portions of the annexation area are excluded from the annexation.
In order to succeed in an annexation case the city must prove and the chancellor must find that the annexation is reasonable. City of Jackson v. City of Ridgeland and City of Madison, (Miss. No. 58267, dec'd. May 31, 1989) (not yet reported) and Bassett v. Town of Taylorsville, 542 So. 2d 918, 920 (Miss. 1989) and cases cited therein. This reasonableness standard" has in mind the interests both of the municipality seeking annexation and, . . . , of the owners of property and other inhabitants of the area sought to be annexed. "Id. Based on its reasonableness determination, the chancery court may approve the annexation, deny the petition, or modify the proposed annexation. City of Jackson v. City of Ridgeland and City of Madison, (Miss. No. 58267, dec'd. May 31, 1989) (not yet reported); In re Enlargement of Boundaries of Yazoo City, 452 So. 2d 837, 840 (Miss. 1984); and, MCA 21-1-33 (1972 & Supp. 1988). This Court may reverse only if the trial court's finding of ultimate fact that the annexation was reasonable is manifestly wrong or without the support of substantial, credible evidence. City of Jackson v. City of Ridgeland and City of Madison, supra; Bassett v. Town of Taylorsville, 542 So. 2d at 921; McElhaney v. City of Horn Lake, 501 So. 2d 401, 403 (Miss. 1987); and, Enlargement of Boundaries of Yazoo City, 452 So. 2d at 838.
Over the years this Court has developed numerous factors that a chancellor should consider in reaching his reasonableness determination. These factors, indicia of reasonableness, are not separate and distinct tests but should lead to a determination based on the totality of the circumstances. Bassett v. Town of Taylorsville, 542 So. 2d at 921-22, citing City of Greenville v. Farmers, Inc., 513 So. 2d 932 (Miss. 1987). This Court's most recent annexation opinions identify 12 such factors. See, City of Jackson v. City of Ridgeland and City of Madison, and Bassett v. Town of Taylorsville, supra. Only two of the twelve factors come into play in the instant case. There was little or no contradictory proof on the other ten factors. Objectors argue that annexation of the southwestern portion of the proposed area is not reasonably within the path of the ...