Farmington will not seek tax hike
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.”
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.
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.