By Gary Bridgman, News Director, White River Now
Stone County is just over two weeks away from an important school election.
It is being held on the same date as the election for school board members. The Mountain View School District, which serves all of Stone County, will be asking for a millage increase for the first time in 36 years.
The ballot also contains two uncontested school board positions. There is only one school district in the state of Arkansas that has a lower millage rate than the Mountain View District, whose rate is 28.91 mills.
Those 36 years have eaten into the operations and building fund budget line items.
Superintendent Brent Howard has previously said the continuing use of those funds to operate the district will soon present a “fiscal distress” problem for the district as defined by the Arkansas Board of Education.
To increase awareness of the issue, the school district is providing informational handouts to the public. One of those handouts shows some examples of how the millage increase would impact property owners.
For instance, if you have acreage with a house valued at $100,000, you would currently be paying $578. The 7 mills increase would increase the total taxes to $718, an increase of $140 in a year. You could break it down even further, and say the new millage would increase your taxes on that amount of property to just under $12 a month.
The Mountain View School District is composed of public schools in Mountain View, Timbo, and Rural Special at Fox. You can compare the district’s current millage of 28.91 mills to other districts in the immediate area:
- Calico Rock with 370 students has a millage rate of 42.30
- Concord with 505 students has a millage rate of 36.60
- Searcy County with 962 students has a millage rate of 36.55
- Shirley with 383 students has a millage rate of 35.50.
Mountain View currently serves 1,595 students with a millage rate of 28.91
The school board and administration have said they believe that Mountain View School District students, teachers, and staff deserve the equally safe buildings, stable salaries, and well-maintained facilities as surrounding school districts.
Howard has said the cost of everything required to operate a school district has increased, and district funding has actually decreased (since 1985). From the costs of heating and cooling classrooms to the food served every day in the cafeteria, to the cost of a school bus for transporting students to and from school — all have increased. From 1985 to the present, price inflation is 108 percent. That means all those goods and services just mentioned have more than doubled in cost. At the same time, the school patrons have continued to pay a millage rate that is the second-lowest in Arkansas.
The school district has continued to make every effort to be a good steward of every dollar. But the Mountain View School District will soon need to assess its situation, including the district budget in order to maintain district facilities and carry on day-to-day operations.
School leaders say the millage increase will be used for daily maintenance and operation, and to meet the state’s minimum requirement for teacher salaries. If the millage proposal does not pass, the district will need to consider other options such as compressing and freezing the salary schedules, combining schools within the district, and reducing the staff.
Those are not choices the Board of Directors wants to make, but it is just recognition of the situation at hand.
It should be noted that the millage increase will affect taxes on both real estate and personal property.
Voting on the issue before the people will take place on Tuesday, May 18, at the usual voting sites throughout the county.
The school board and administration say they will be distributing flyers, sharing information on social media, local media, and doing whatever they can to inform Stone County residents about the need for the proposed millage.
Early voting starts May 11 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. each day. An early vote can be cast at the voting center on Peabody Avenue across from the courthouse.
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