Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

TOP STORY >>Growing community seeks improvements

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

Cabot residents will head to the polls in March to decide a 3.9 millage increase to help fund construction projects within the Cabot School District.

The school board Tuesday night voted for holding a special school election on March 11 to help the district pay its share of the cost of future projects listed on the district’s master plan.

“We know people don’t like taxes,” Superintendent Dr. Tony Thurman said, “but we know by the numbers that we need some help. We’re not generating enough money to get the facilities we need done and take care of those in the future.”

Residents in the Cabot School District pay 36 mills, 25 of which are used for maintenance and operation as required by state law, and 11 debt-service mills, which provide capital for major building projects.

If approved by the voters, Cabot’s new millage rate of 39.9 will remain the lowest school millage rate in Lonoke County and will equal the current average millage rate of the 10 largest school districts in the state.

The 16 proposed projects, costing $50.5 million — more than half of that coming from the state — include a new elementary school in the north zone between Magness Creek and Ward Central elementaries; installing heating and cooling units in all K-6 activity buildings within the district; building a new health, physical education and recreation complex at the high school attached to a new cafeteria/student center; new elementary classrooms at Westside Elementary, and new secondary classrooms at the high school.

Thurman said, “We’re confident most of the projects will be approved (by the state facilities board),” which will make them eligible for state funding. For any state-approved construction project, the district shares the cost in a 60-40 split, with the district picking up 40 percent of the total approved cost.

Even though Cabot is seen as a financially sound district, coming up with enough money to cover its share is not always easy and at times requires a millage increase, district officials said.

Cabot will need $22.8 million to complete all the proposed projects, with the state pitching in $27.7 million. The additional 3.9 mills would provide the district with the $22.8 million needed. One mill is equal to one tenth of one cent (.001) and is based on 20 percent of the assessed value of the resident’s property. For example, a home valued at $100,000 has an assessed value of $20,000 (20 percent); one mill on this home would cost $20 – $20,000 multiplied by .001.

Using the same example but with Cabot’s millage rate of 36 mills or .036, the homeowner would pay total millage of $720 for the year in real estate taxes, or about $80 more a year.

Each mill generates $47 per student. With a current district enrollment of 9,226, that equals a total of $433,622 per year for Cabot schools, or $15,610,392 a year generated by local taxes.

The district’s last millage increase was for 5.8 mills in 2002 to help fund construction of the new high school, the fine arts addition at the high school, and additions to Ward Central and Magness Creek Elementary schools.