Farm­ing­ton will not seek tax hike

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - MARK HUMPHREY

FARM­ING­TON — Vot­ers won’t be asked to ap­prove a 1.25-mill prop­erty tax in­crease in Farm­ing­ton for now.

The Farm­ing­ton School Board de­cided dur­ing a July 10 meet­ing not to put the ques­tion to vot­ers to help pay for Phase 3 of the high school cam­pus.

But the board will ask vot­ers to al­low the district to ex­tend debt to ac­quire bonds. The ques­tion will be placed on the Sept. 19 school elec­tion bal­lot. The School District col­lects 42.6 mills. Of that num­ber, 25 mills are ded­i­cated to main­te­nance and op­er­a­tions. The re­main­ing 17.6 mills is mainly ded­i­cated to debt ser­vice.

Ac­cord­ing to Su­per­in­ten­dent Bryan Law, the pro­jected cost of fin­ish­ing Phase 3 is about $6 mil­lion, which in­cludes dirt work, track and field fa­cil­i­ties, a foot­ball sta­dium and soc­cer field. The foot­ball sta­dium costs in­clude a turf sur­face, con­ces­sion stand, bath­rooms, a press box, bleach­ers, a field­house, sta­dium lights and score­board.

Law told the board, “I think we can do Phase 3 with­out a mill­age in­crease if that’s what you want.”

THREE OP­TIONS

Law pre­sented three op­tions:

No. 1: Ask vot­ers to re-es­tab­lish 1.25 mills that have been rolled back to gen­er­ate rev­enue.

No. 2: Ex­tend debt. Law said the district can push debt out an­other 10 years and the board could look at pos­si­bly ac­quir­ing an­other $4 mil­lion in bonds.

No. 3: Con­tinue as the district has op­er­ated, sav­ing money while build­ing. Law said this op­tion ex­tends the fin­ish date for Phase 3 to about two to three years as op­posed to an 18-month com­ple­tion us­ing other op­tions.

Prop­erty as­sess­ments have in­creased in the district, cre­at­ing ad­di­tional debt ca­pac­ity. Law said if the board elected to seek a mill­age in­crease, it would be pre­sented to vot­ers in Septem­ber. Ex­tend­ing the debt would al­low the board to wait un­til spring 2018 to ask vot­ers to ap­prove a 1.25-mill in­crease. This would re­quire set­ting a spe­cific amount of $4 to $4.5 mil­lion in bonds.

Board mem­ber Travis War­ren in­quired about this and was told an in­crease in as­sess­ments would gen­er­ate an ad­di­tional $199,000 per year in debt ser­vice funds, giv­ing the district a $3.3 mil­lion bor­row­ing ca­pac­ity.

NOT AF­FECT­ING TAX­PAY­ERS

Law said he would like to fin­ish Phase 3 with­out ask­ing for a mill­age in­crease from the vot­ers. He prefers ex­tend­ing debt and ac­quir­ing an­other $4 mil­lion in bonds. This would not af­fect tax­pay­ers.

“It would cost noth­ing out of their pocket,” Law said. “It would gen­er­ate enough money or come very close to fin­ish­ing that high school.”

War­ren asked if that in­cluded the in­door prac­tice fa­cil­ity.

Law replied that fig­ure didn’t in­clude an in­door fa­cil­ity. To build an in­door fa­cil­ity within the next year would re­quire a mill­age in­crease, Law said. Law also said the fig­ure doesn’t do much for roads or park­ing. Two large park­ing lots will have to be con­structed at a pro­jected cost of $200,000.

“Part of the thing we’ve got to do is, we’ve got to leave a lit­tle bit of money in our CIP (Cap­i­tal Im­prove­ment Projects) cash fund,” Law said.

Law said neigh­bor­ing schools have run into cash­flow prob­lems in the sum­mer when they have not done this. Law said at least $1 mil­lion should be left in the build­ing fund in­stead of ded­i­cat­ing all of it to Phase 3.

COM­MU­NITY FA­VORS PROJECT

War­ren said he has spo­ken with con­stituents and 95 per­cent of those he’s talked to are in fa­vor of Phase 3.

“For the most part, peo­ple are ex­cited about the com­plex go­ing up on (Arkansas) 170,” War­ren said. “They want our fa­cil­i­ties to be on par with com­pa­ra­ble schools.”

Board mem­ber Wade Cash wanted to know how much an in­door foot­ball prac­tice fa­cil­ity would cost. Con­trac­tors pro­vided an es­ti­mate of $4.8 mil­lion, not­ing Gen­try con­structed a sim­i­lar fa­cil­ity two years ago at a cost of $4.2 mil­lion. With that fig­ure, Cash said he wanted to stay away from a mill­age in­crease for now. Board mem­ber Travis War­ren said he is not scared of a mill­age in­crease. Board mem­ber Amy Hill said she is in fa­vor of a mill­age in­crease.

FOOT­BALL SHOW­CASE

Board pres­i­dent Jeff Ox­ford said he wants to do the whole thing with­out ask­ing vot­ers for an in­creased mill­age.

“We’ve done most ev­ery­thing the last nine to 10 years with­out a mill­age,” Ox­ford said. “I un­der­stand that our Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter and Car­di­nal Arena is a show­case. I think we’d be do­ing an in­jus­tice if the foot­ball field is any­thing less.” Ox­ford thinks the in­door fa­cil­ity may ex­ceed pro­jected costs and wouldn’t be sur­prised if it reached $5 mil­lion. “That’s a lot of money for a foot­ball deal,” Ox­ford said, not­ing he is aware other school-spon­sored ac­tiv­i­ties, such as march­ing band, also can use an in­door fa­cil­ity.

The board ap­proved the pro­posed bud­get with no mill­age in­crease. The bud­get in­cludes an ad­di­tional $4.5 mil­lion in in­creased bonds over a 30-year pe­riod.

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