Leader Blues

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

TOP STORY > >Cabot gets closer to deciding on millage

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

For less than the cost of a Coke a day, residents in the Cabot School District could further the future growth and needed improvements of the district by voting for the 3.9 debt-service-mills increase in Tuesday’s special election.

The additional mills would allow the district to sell bonds and move forward with $50.5 million in proposed building projects which would benefit not only the students, but residents as well.

Residents can cast their vote at one of two polling sites – the Family Life Center at First Baptist Church, 306 W. Pine St., or the Youth Center at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, 3105 Hwy. 89.

“Approval of these mills will allow us to generate needed funds to finance capital projects throughout the district,” Superintendent Dr. Tony Thurman said.

Although the total cost of the proposed projects is $50.5 million, Cabot’s portion will be less than half – $22 million – due to the state facilities partnership program.

The requested millage increase of 3.9 mills will generate the $22.8 million needed for the district’s share of the capital projects, Thurman said.

“There is a strong correlation between the quality of the local school system and the quality of the local community. This is exactly why families continue to choose Cabot over other communities,” he said, adding it is the priority of the board members and administration to provide the highest-quality education possible in the best possible facilities.

With the millage increase, Cabot’s total millage rate would be 39.9 mills, remaining the lowest school millage rate in Lonoke County and placing Cabot at the average millage rate of the top ten largest school districts in the state. Cabot is currently the seventh largest district in Arkansas.

The cost to homeowners for the proposed 3.9 mills is based on their home’s assessed property value. Taxes are based on 20 percent of the assessed property value with one mill being equal to 1/10 of one cent For example, a home assigned a value of $100,000 has an assessed value of $20,000 (20 percent). One mill on this home would cost $20 ($20,000 multiplied by .001).
On a $100,000 home, 3.9 mills would cost an additional $78 a year; broken down, that’s $6.50 a month – less than a quarter a day. Owners of a $50,000 home would pay $39 more a year or $3.25 a month; a $150,000 home – an additional $117 a year or $9.75 a month; a $200,000 home – $156 more a year or $13 a month.

“Taxes are frustrating to everyone. It is important to remember that a local millage election has a direct impact on the local school district and students. Our patrons, with or without children, will see the continued focus on exemplary programs, new facilities, and upgrades to our current facilities,” Thurman said.

The district has 15 building projects planned using the funds gained from a millage increase.
Obligations include $2.5 million to pay the district’s share of costs to rebuild Junior High North, still over a year from completion.

Also planned are a $13 million cafeteria/HPER (gym) at Cabot High School; a proposed elementary school on the west side of the district at an estimated cost of $11.4 million; $7.3 million in additional secondary classrooms; a total of $8.1 million in renovations on the high school’s auditorium, science building and agriculture building; a $2.3 million science addition at Junior High South; $600,000 to add heat and air conditioning units to school cafeterias – the only cafeterias currently with heat and air are Stagecoach and Magness Creek Elementary schools.

The list also includes $1.8 million to install heat and air conditioning units in activity buildings around the district; $200,000 for a new roof at Eastside Elementary School; $700,000 to add on to Westside Elementary School; $2 million for a permanent charter school facility; $200,000 for a student area/amphitheater at CHS; and $400,000 for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements/accessibility.

Thurman note that residents’ property values have increased, saying “a quality school system ensures that property values will continue to rise.”

With or without children in the Cabot school system, Thurman said the city of Cabot will continue to be a quality community in which to live and play.

“Our district takes great pride in partnering with the city of Cabot to provide structured activities for local youth,” he said.
The district hosted 28 youth league football games last fall at Panther Stadium and 204 basketball games in district gyms, Thurman said. The gyms are used by the public for 13 weeks for a total of over 624 hours.

“We have also partnered with the city to host 40 games on our baseball and softball fields,” he added. Thurman said research has shown that students that are involved in extra-curricular activities such as athletics, fine arts or ROTC programs have better school attendance, grade-point averages and discipline records.

“The district appreciates our partnership with the city of Cabot parks and recreation department, since working together to provide access to programs will provide students with a sense of belonging in structured, supervised activities,” Thurman said.