Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

TOP STORY > >Increasing taxes gets approval in Cabot

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

Patrons of the Cabot School District approved a 3.9 debt-service mills increase in Tuesday’s special election, bringing Cabot to a total of 39.9 mills.

A total of 2,276 votes were cast – 1,190 for the tax increase and 1,086 against.

The approval of the millage increase will allow the district to obtain more than $50 million in building projects and upgrades at a cost of $22 million thanks to the state facilities partnership program.

“I’m very relieved, excited and thankful to our patrons, faculty and staff,” Superintendent Dr. Tony Thurman said after the close vote. “This has been a challenging three months making sure that patrons and staff members understood the critical financial situation of the district. I want to especially thank our staff members for their patience and support these last seven months. It has been challenging, but we’ll do this together as a team.”

Although it was a closer outcome compared to the 2002 millage election – a total of 1,100 votes, 700 for and 400 against six years ago – Thurman was thankful for everyone for casting a vote yesterday.

“I appreciate those who voted either way because they care about the school system. It is the objective of the board of education, faculty and staff for our district to be the most exemplary system in the state of Arkansas,” he said.

“The board members and I understand fully that our patrons expect us to be financially accountable and ensure district funds are allocated efficiently for the maximum benefit for our students,” he added.

Thurman said he had heard complaints from Ward and Austin area residents about the lack of polling sites in those areas, but he said that decision was made by the Lonoke County Election Commission and not the district.

“Any of our valued patrons upset should contact the commission and request that sites be open in all areas for future elections,” he said.

With the increase, Cabot’s total millage rate is now 39.9 mills, remaining the lowest school millage rate in Lonoke County and placing Cabot at the average millage rate of the top 10 largest school districts in the state. Cabot is currently the seventh largest district in Arkansas.

The district has 15 building projects planned using the funds gained from the millage increase.

In the list of projects is $2.5 million to pay the district’s share of costs to rebuild Junior High North, which will be ready in 2009.

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; $0.6 million 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 improvements/accessibility.

On a $100,000 home, 3.9 mills would cost an additional $78 a year. 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.