Leader Blues

Saturday, December 22, 2007

TOP STORY >>Cabot millage needed to expand limited tax base

Leader staff writer

Because Cabot has more than 9,000 students but not a large tax base, the Cabot School Board decided Tuesday that the only way to fund needed construction projects throughout the district is to ask residents for a 3.9 mills increase in a special election March 10.

“We are huge in terms of numbers, but not in terms of a tax base,” district comptroller Kelly Hayes told the board. “It just takes more mills for us.”

If the increase were approved, Cabot’s total millage would be 39.9 mills, generating the $22.8 million needed for the district’s share of the $50.5 million in construction projects it is trying to fund.

School board member Alan Turnbo described the projects as broad based. “They touch every age group and corner of our district,” he said.

The projects include a $13 million health, physical education and recreation complex at the high school attached to a new cafeteria/student center; $11.3 million for a new elementary school; $9.04 million to install heating, ventilation and air conditioning units in 10 kitchens in the district as well as HVAC systems at Southside Elementary, Junior High South and Central Elementary; $7.3 million to add 40 classrooms at the high school to accommodate future growth; $3.66 million for renovations to the high school auditorium; $3.6 million to renovate the high school S-building; $2.27 million to upgrade the science labs at Junior High South to accommodate growth in the next four years; $1.86 million for a new roof and HVAC system at Eastside Elementary School; $1.77 million for HVAC systems in the physical-education facilities at eight campuses; and $1.82 to construct a new facility for the district’s charter school.

Hayes said, “3.9 mills generate all the money needed to fund the projects if the pieces fit together correctly.”

If the state facilities board does not help fund the projects in a 60-40 split, Cabot will have to decide where to spend its 40 percent share of the cost for at least some of the 16 proposed construction projects in the next three to five years.

School board president Brooks Nash said the students need the construction projects.

“People come to Cabot not because of the industry in Cabot … I guess they are our industry,” Nash said. “There is some producing and credibility within the school district, but if the money is not coming in, it’s not going to be that way. That’s the bottom line,” he said.

Cost for residents

The effect of 3.9 new debt- service mills on property owners within the Cabot School District equates to less than 50 cents a day.

If a home were valued at $100,000, 3.9 new mills would cost $78 more a year in property taxes – a mere $6.50 a month. A home valued at $150,000 would cost $117 more a year – about $9.75 a month. And for a home valued at $200,000, 3.9 new mills would cost $156 more a year – $13 per month.

Compared to other districts

At 39.9 mills, Cabot schools would still have the lowest millage rate in Lonoke County and would be equal to the current average of the top 10 districts in the state.

Currently in Lonoke County, the Lonoke School District collects 40.40 mills; Carlisle collects 42 mills, England 41 mills, and Cabot 36 mills.

Each of Cabot’s mills generates $47 per student. Lonoke’s mills generate $53 per student; Carlisle generates $68 per student with each of its mills; and England brings in $54 per student per mill.

Within the 10 largest districts in the state in student population, of which Cabot is listed at number seven, Little Rock has 46.4 mills, Pulaski County Special School District has 40.7 mills, Springdale has 39.2 mills, Rogers has 39 mills, Conway is at 36.2 mills, North Little Rock is at 40.9, Fayetteville has 43.8, Bentonville has 40.3, Fort Smith has 36.5, and Cabot comes in lowest with 36 mills.

Cabot brings $433,622 per year from each of its 36 mills, or a total of $15,610,392, the lowest amount generated by the top 10 districts in the state.

North Little Rock is next lowest with $611,824 per mill, a total of $25,023,602 per year and its enrollment of 8,974 is 252 students less than Cabot’s 9,226 students.

PCSSD generates $1.85 million a mill, a yearly total of $75,670,173 – $107 for each of its-17,395 students. Conway generates $784,390 per mill, a yearly total of $28,394,918 – $87 for each of its 9,002 students.