Vilonia millage proposal would fund building plan
Vilonia residents will vote Tuesday on a proposal to raise property taxes by 5.7 mills to help finance more than $33 million in school construction and renovations.
If approved, the total millage rate in the Vilonia School District would increase from 39.9 to 45.6 mills.
The measure is aimed at providing the bulk of the funding for a 1,200-seat auditorium, a career and technical education building and some high school renovations. The school district with an enrollment of 3,187 does not have an auditorium.
Superintendent David Stephens said the work would be phased in starting with the auditorium this fall. Construction on the career and technical education center would begin no later than the fall of 2021. The final phase of classroom renovations would begin by 2026.
Renovations would include providing more classroom space, improving science laboratories and enlarging the library media center.
School officials hope to lessen the burden on taxpayers by phasing in the projects.
“If we were to implement the construction plan as one project, a minimum of a 9 millage increase would be needed,” according to an information sheet on the proposal.
The project’s total cost would be about $33 million, according to the information sheet provided by the superintendent. The school district already has been approved for about $4.2 million in state aid, putting the final cost to the district at $28.8 million.
Under the proposed increase and based on the state’s 20 percent assessment value, a person who owns a home with a $100,000 market value and who currently pays $798 annually in property taxes would pay an additional $114 annually, or $912 per year.
Stephens joined the school district in July 2014 after two tornadoes struck the community. The second one destroyed the roughly $13 million new intermediate school on South Mount Olive Road, which was nearly complete. The district started over and has since reopened that school.
Stephens said he’s “heard folks very much in favor of” the proposed millage increase and “very much opposed to it.”
Still, he said he’s optimistic because “I’ve heard so many positive things from community members.”
He said he knew of no committee formed to campaign against the proposal but said one was formed to work for it.
One supporter is Laura Patrom, who said she has three children enrolled in the school district.
“I see it as [providing] opportunities [the students] currently don’t have,” she said, referring to the proposed auditorium and career and technical education center.
“To me, [the school’s plan] is absolutely worth the investment,” Patrom said.