Voters In Nine School Districts Vote For Tax Hikes

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 117 views 

Voters in nine school districts voted to raise millage rates in Tuesday’s school elections, while those in five districts said no.

Districts that passed a millage increase were Bentonville, Heber Springs, Brookland, Lee County, Flippin, Hazen, Danville, Prairie Grove, and West Fork. Districts that rejected millage increases were Alma, Manila, Centerpoint, Dover, and Searcy County.

Seventy percent of voters in Bentonville passed a 2.9-mill increase to build a second high school serving 2,250 students. The final unofficial count was 8,208-3,494, with every precinct voting yes. The Bentonville millage increase is expected to raise $73 million to go along with $13 million that will be provided in state aid.

Bentonville is building a second high school because Bentonville High is out of room. The school, which has a capacity of 3,737, was 180 students overcapacity in 2012-13 and is expected to be almost 500 students overcapacity this year. The district had contemplated moving to a split schedule where some students attended class in the morning and others in the afternoon.

Last year, Bentonville patrons rejected a larger millage increase request to build a second high school, so the district pared down this year’s request with a smaller school and $17 million less spent on athletics expenditures. Under the package passed Tuesday, the football teams at the two high schools will share the current stadium. Last year’s proposal would have built a second stadium. Other expenditures such as remodels and HVAC improvements were left off this year’s request.

“All those things got eliminated,” said Bentonville’s superintendent, Mike Poore. “We went to the lowest number that we could possibly present and try to get a win.”

Poore credited a number of factors in the tax’s passage, including a committed school board and a more professional approach to the election than last year. The Chamber of Commerce endorsed the plan and was the headquarters of the campaign in support of it. A voter registration drive increased the percentage of registered parents.

Walmart also was a major contributor. Poore said he approached the company shortly after last year’s failed campaign asking for help. The company conducted a survey that helped the campaign create its message. Poore spoke last week at company headquarters.

Results in other districts that passed a millage increase were as follows:
– Heber Springs passed a 3.4-mill increase for improvements including a performing arts complex, 591-571;
– Brookland passed a 1.99-mill increase to build a new middle school and a preschool building and add four classrooms to the elementary facility, 607-271;
– Lee County passed a 2-mill increase for maintenance and operations, 770-662;
– Flippin passed a 2.5-mill increase to build a new elementary school, 461-159;
– Hazen passed a 3.8-mill increase for an auditorium, 10 classrooms and a safe room, 499-257;
– Danville passed a 3.5-mill increase for classrooms, a library addition, band and choir rooms, an elementary cafeteria and a safe room, 293 -107;
– Prairie Grove passed a 6-mill increase to replace the primary school, 522-316;
– West Fork passed a 2-mill increase for construction and improvements, 268-125.

Results in districts that voted against a millage increase were as follows:
– Alma rejected a 1.2-mill increase for improved school security and to hire three new school resource officers, 1,048-668;
– Manila rejected a 4.7-mill increase to build a new high school and make improvements to other facilities, 323-261;
– Centerpoint rejected a 4.25-mill increase to build a new high school and convert the current high school/middle school into an elementary and middle school, 407-132;
– Dover rejected a 5.5-mill increase to build and renovate classrooms and other facilities, 824-394;
– Searcy County rejected a 5-mill increase for facilities construction and renovations, 973-280.

In addition, voters in Emerson-Taylor-Bradley voted to raise rates in Bradley, which recently consolidated with the rest of the district, to equalize the amount paid by all. That vote was 75-53.