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PSD seeks millage hike

By Staff, 05/21/19 1:53 PM

PRESCOTT – A 5.9 mill increase is being sought by the Prescott School District.

A public meeting was held Monday concerning the need for the increase. Superintendent Robert Poole said there hasn’t been a millage increase in the district for more than 20 years, and one is needed now to construct a new elementary school.

“We want to make sure you have the facts and information,” he said. “This is an investment in the community, in our kids.” Poole said the Prescott School Board has made great financial decisions over the year, getting a new junior high and agriculture building constructed, along with getting air conditioning for the gym and a new roof for Prescott High School without asking for a millage hike. He said the board has led the way to make sure all students get free meals and have most of their school supplies furnished, but the district needs help building new facilities.

According to Poole, the Arkansas Division of Public School Academic Facilities uses a scale to rate the expected remaining life of a building from 100-0. Prescott Elementary, he said, ranks at a negative 22. The new building would house K-4.

The state, he said, will pick up 56 percent of the cost of a new building should the millage be approved. Additional funds generated by the millage will be used for security upgrades, demolition fees (for the existing primary school), and paving parking lots where the current PES is and behind Cummings Stadium between the football and baseball fields.

“At this point, we need help from the community, parents and patrons.” Poole said the Arkansas Department of Education has a partnership program where more than half the money would come from. He told those gathered in the Prescott Junior High cafeteria the ADE requires districts to address their facility needs and has a formula based on square footage and the number of students involved. Based on this formula, he said, PES is at -22.

He pointed out more parking is needed as the cafeteria is used to house a variety of events. He added the plans call for more security upgrades, with the new PES being secure with the best doors available where no one can get in or out unless someone lets them in. A portion of the millage would also be used to improve security on all campuses so there won’t be any blind spots.

PSD’s current millage is 35.1, Poole said, and the 5.9 would make it 41 mill. According to information provided at the meeting, should the millage pass, the property tax on homes appraised at $100,000 would be an extra $118 per year for the owner.

A breakdown of how the millage would be used is as follows: The overall cost of a new elementary school is projected to be $9,172,250. The state’s 56 percent will cover $5,179,373, leaving the PSD to fund $3,992,877. Architect and engineering fees will run $550,335, bringing the total cost of the building to $9,722,585. Demolition of the current PES building will cost $225,000, with a new parking lot running $522,500, with architect and engineering fees for this adding $26,125, bringing the total for this project to $773,625. Paving the drive between the visitor’s side of Cummings Stadium and the Johnson Sports Complex will be $528,000, with the architect and engineering fees listed at $36,960, bringing the cost of this project to $564,960. Security upgrades with doors and cameras will add another $300,000 to the total, which will be $11,361,170.

The 5.9 mills will bring in $6,305,000, with the state’s share at $5,179,373, or $11,484,373, leaving a contingency fund of $123,203.

Poole said times and things change and this is the last term for Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. He added, the partnership program may be eliminated by the next governor, which would mean Prescott would have to pick up the tab for the entire project.

Should the millage proposal fail, he said, the district would still have the existing PES, but wouldn’t have the money to address the issued with the facility. With a new building, Poole said, the state could push people toward Prescott, adding everything in Prescott revolves around the school, which is the third largest employer in the county.

“We need to take advantage of this while we can. We need to stay competitive. Without the kids, there wouldn’t be much of a community and we want the best facilities we can get. Our children deserve the best and safest environment we can provide.”

Everyone, he said, uses the school. Poole stressed this millage proposal has nothing to do with a new football field or gym. It is strictly for a new PES, parking lots and security upgrades, with the new PES to be built near the bus garage.

“If we can’t show people we’re willing to invest in the school, how can we attract business.” Poole said one of the most important aspects for economic development is education and the need for quality schools for prospective businesses and industries.

The millage would be for 30 years, he said, unless the district refinances its debt. If the people don’t support this, the district will have the same old building, he continued, and the same needs. Construction costs will keep going up and the ADE won’t allow the PSD to keep using the current PES for another 10 years. “If we don’t have a plan the state can take over the school or shut it down.”

He said Bismarck and Bald Knob almost had their schools taken over by the state until those communities passed millage increases to make changes. “The state is looking for reasons to shut schools down. Fewer schools,” he said, “means the less the state has to fund. We want to keep our kids local and we need your help. If we lose the school, Prescott could turn into a ghost town. The state doesn’t want to take schools over.”

Phil Jones, with CR Crawford Construction, said the company has a database with 3,000 to 4,000 subcontractors and will do what it can to get local contractors to bid on various aspects of these projects. He added, the lowest qualified bid will be awarded the contract and told the audience the company is working on a project in Ashdown where it made 1,700 contacts and sent out 98 emails to potential contractors. The same, he said, would be done for this project.

The election date for the millage proposal has been set for Sept. 10, though early voting will be held at the Nevada County Courthouse. Voting on Sept. 10 will be done at the Prescott schools.

Poole said if anyone hears the wrong information they should contact the school. He added, several more of this type meeting will be held to get the word out.