Vilo­nia mill­age pro­posal would fund build­ing plan

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - OBITUARIES - DE­BRA HALE-SHEL­TON

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.

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