Sunday, March 12, 2017

Board wants tax hike to build new school

The middle school was built before 1950.
Despite being one of the landowners who would be hit hardest, Natalie Parish says she supports a tax increase being considered by Crittenden County Board of Education to give both middle- and high-schoolers new homes.

The proposed 5.8-cent increase, or  recallable nickel, would be assessed on each $100 of property, generating enough revenue to finance the proposed $8 million project.

Parish and her husband Philip own and farm hundreds of acres in Crittenden County and would pay hundreds more dollars each year in school taxes. But the couple also has a senior and freshman in Crittenden County High School.

“It’s going to cost our family greatly, but how else are we supposed to get (a new school)?” Parish said.

The Parishes, too, are facing the possibility of a similar tax increase on their Caldwell County acreage. The school board there is also considering a recallable nickel, but the family still supports the proposal locally.

“I understand we have a 70-year-old middle school. I respect that,” Parish said in support of the board’s proposal. “I also realize it’s going to be costly for people, especially over 20 years. I respect that, too.”

The school district has posted on its web site a 9-minute YouTube video explaining the need for school construction, as well as a survey and downloadable answers to frequently asked questions and an outline of a facilities plan. At 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, the information will be shared live with the general public during a forum in the Rocket Arena conference room. 

As planned, Crittenden County Schools would need $6.7 million to build a new high school and another $1.3 million to renovate CCHS for middle-schoolers, demolish the portion of CCMS built in 1949 and renovate the eighth-grade wing for a new central office.

CCMS suffers from myriad issues, including undersized classrooms; plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical systems in need of replacement; floor supports slowly rusting away; and more. Giving those students the two-story high school would provide plenty of breathing room and modern infrastructure in a building that is 40 years old and allow the top four grades to have a new, state-of-art high school with more accommodations for 21st century learning.

Currently, the school district has about $4.75 million in bonding potential through a nickel construction tax automatically built into the 46.3-cent school levy. With a state match, the second, recallable nickel would generate about $6 million more, which could be used only for construction.  

Only districts that implement the recallable nickel can receive the matching state monies.

If approved by the board, voters can petition to recall the tax in a special election.

The tax would cost property owners $5.80 for each $10,000 worth of real property. Motor vehicles would not be assessed, therefore renters would foot no portion of the bill to build a new school.